Album review

The Promise Ring : Wood/Water

The Promise Ring : Wood/WaterI really wanted to like this CD a lot more than I do. No really. Y'see, I'd heard that The Promise Ring were one of the trailblazers of the emo 'scene', and were producing music that their more commercial cousins (like let's say . . . ooh . . . Jimmy Eat World?) couldn't hope to match.
    Unfortunately, the Promise Ring album I choose to listen to first is the one that sees them throw away the buzzy guitars and bare their collective souls in the form of thoughtful acoustic laments. The look on my face when I first heard Wood/Water is a look I usually reserve for the death of a Ramone . . .

So is it pants? Well no, it's a grower - not a particularly fast grower, but a grower all the same. The opener Size Of Your Life is a good start; broken-microphone vocals and a jaunty pace are the order of the day until first single Stop Playing Guitar kicks in. Again, another strong three minute tune, but in this case it's a three minuter trapped in the the body of a five minute track, and it does outstay its welcome.
    The string-led Suffer Never bears the hallmarks of something The Flaming Lips or Mercury Rev would throw together. It shouldn't work in this company, but oddly doesn't sound at all out of place.
    The delicate and tender Become One Anything One Time, with its "I'm just happy you stuck around" refrain is a highlight for me, as is the penultimate Say Goodbye Good, despite its closing feel-good backing vocals.

After many plays, sections of Wood/Water still fail to hold my attention. When you strip everything down to basics your songwriting has really got to be top notch, because there's nothing to hide behind. The Promise Ring's songs don't all make the grade, but I like the ones that do - enough to give the next album a chance and check out the back catalogue.

:: Rowan Shaeffer

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