Shadows of past lives can get long, but they needn't darken the present. People know Davey von Bohlen and Dan Didier as half of The Promise Ring, the band that unwittingly resurrected a genre (or at least the name of a genre) and influenced untold numbers of kids to put thinking and feeling and rocking all together in one package. Eric Axelson, meanwhile, made the shimmy shake as the bassist of The Dismemberment Plan. Once again, in case you hadn't heard: Those bands broke up.
But before the carcasses were cold, there was Maritime. A logical extension of where these players had been and, simultaneously, a clean break, the new band feels like freedom-uninterested in restrictions either self-imposed or publicly expected. Maritime made their first record right away, and Glass Floor (released in early 2004) gently hummed with life and pop and good cheer. In its simplicity, it felt like a gentle kiss-off, a mostly happy stroll that was content to walk a straight line. Bands could make records just like it forever, and the world would be a better place.
But what to do for album number two, when the shadow cast by past triumphs is shorter and expectations (both public and private) don't feel as weighty as they once did? Here's what you do: You make We, The Vehicles-a triumphant realization of Maritime's unlabored goal and an occasional turn toward the darker, denser corners of years past. That's right: We, The Vehicles isn't all sunshine and bubbles. Maritime remains solidly tethered to pop perfection, but has taken space to let that pop cycle through all its permutations.
They're all here: "Parade Of Punk Rock T-Shirts" grabs a ska beat and twists it into wistful nostalgia-it would sound amazing sung by Gwen Stefani, seriously. "Tearing Up The Oxygen," written shortly before it was recorded, mixes "ahh-ahhs" and keyboard blips into palpable longing. "Young Alumni" and the shiny "We Don't Think, We Know" deliver the pop goods, and then "German Engineering" flips the script with remarkably stoic strangeness. (You didn't know these guys could do that, did you?) The dark "No One Will Remember You Tonight" even glances back at von Bohlen's imagistic, early lyrical style. Then there's album-opener "Calm," which is anything but: It declares, "We are powerful despite our injuries," and then goes on with help from We, The Vehicles' other terrific songs-to prove it.
Maritime may have a collective history to both cling to and run from, but with We, The Vehicles, the band steps forcefully into its own. More than a side project or an "ex-members of," it proves beyond a doubt that this is something viable and vital on its own. As George Michael so wisely said: Listen without prejudice. You'll be glad you did.
Shadows of past lives can get long, but they needn't darken the present. People know Davey von Bohlen and Dan Didier as half of The Promise Ring, the band that unwittingly resurrected a genre (or at...
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