Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Smiley with a Knife - How a Reign Comes to an End

Smiley with a Knife’s How a Reign Comes to an End is an album that exists in the realm of duality. It is one thing and at the same time the antithesis of that same very thing. For an album that breaks almost every rule of the rock genre in its experimental nature, How a Reign Comes to an End manages to be a rock album. It provides emotion and tells stories without using a single spoken word. It allows the listener to feel free, yet pulls back with a head bobbing groove.

The album begins with a dark introduction, as if one is walking down a poorly lit hallway towards a door at the end with traces of noise around them. As that door opens, one is bathed in light that barely gleamed around the edges of it before and surrounded by sounds. Immediately, the air is filled with bouncy bright guitars, punchy bass and crsip drums. As the sounds grow the title “The Whole Town was Watching” makes sense. Without words, the listener begins to understand the town saw what happened, and now it is all a buzz with the passing of the story. Some are more than happy to continue to pass the story along, while others pause in skepticism. This theme of telling a story through the emotion of the instruments is carried throughout the album, though not are all as quite as airy and bright as the opening track.

“Until the Scandal Unveiled Her” slips into a darker realm where the guitars are forced into a much more rhythmic distorted pattern. Beginning with a drum roll, the bright guitars appear to ricochet from left to right off the straight forward bass, like the ball in a game of Pong. This continues until frustration builds and the guitars erupt into a growling roar.

The guitars are what truly speak through the music. They are the characters allowed to roam seemingly free at times expressing what they see and feel. They are the emotion. To maintain some order and not allowing the guitars to become too free in the space, the rhythm section lays down a solid groove, it is the scenery, the boundaries. The songs become more progressive tales than the standard repetition of parts as are most rock songs. The linear attitude to the songs juxtaposed to the tight bass and drums is clear example of the duality of this rock album – without the linear nature it would be just a rock album and without the tight rhythm it would be pure experiment.

How a Reign Comes to an End exists in a time where so many bands are pushing the limits to the point past the recognizable, Smiley with a Knife achieves a sound that is free, yet grounded – allowing for experimentation while not letting things end up in another world. This duality combined with the emotionality is what gives How a Reign Comes to an End its vitality to stand.

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