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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Grasshopper Takeover - Elephant Dreams

Name: Grasshopper Takeover
Album: Elephant Dreams
Year: 2004
Style: Alternative Rock
Similar Bands: Foo Fighters, Candlebox, Collective Soul, Blues Traveler, Sublime, Weird Al Originals.
"One-Word" Review: Polished Poop Promise
Based Out Of: Omaha, Nebraska
Label: Echo Park Music
Elephant Dreams - Cover, Back, Liner Notes
Elephant Dreams - Liner Notes, CD

Elephant Dreams (2004)
  1. Prelude: The Heist 1:40
  2. In A Box 4:20
  3. Make Love, Not War 3:28
  4. Love In Between 4:47
  5. Tumbleweed 4:15
  6. Save Yourself 4:05
  7. Money Back 2:54
  8. No Pressure 3:08
  9. The Queen is Coming 3:36
  10. Best For You 3:40
  11. Up and On My Way 4:01
  12. Long Live Rock N' Roll 3:20
  13. Doin' Time 3:20
  14. Omaha 3:13
  15. Esta Vids 3:40
  16. Emily Rose 3:34
  17. Owe it to You 3:27
  18. Slow Killer 4:27
  19. Gavotten en Rondeau from Suite BWV 1006a 3:00
Album Rating (1-10): 5.0

Members & Other Bands:
Jim Homan - Mixing
Jay Hanson - Mixing
Doug Van Sloan - Mastering
Curt Grubb - Producer, Guitar, Vox (Kind)
Bob Boyce - Producer, Drums, Vox (Kind)
Jill Rizzo - Original Artwork
Bryce Bridges - Photography
Ken Guthrie - Layout & Design
Orajen Group - Website
Mike Cioffero - Guitar
James McMann - Bass

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of these guys. Point of fact, I initially thought the album title was the band name, since it is featured more prominently than the band name. The album looks epic and pretentious. It features interludes and it describes some songs in sections with multiple names. The song list is broken out to look like a college level syllabus with four sections. And the artwork adds to the impression of meandering and complex with its scratch-board abstract/impressionistic style based in red hues. It just looks daunting in a bad way to want to crack its surface. I mean, 19 tracks? I’m expecting modern/prog rock version of chamber music.

Album Review: "Prelude: The Heist” is quiet and brooding, and it sounds like its going to launch into “Hunger Strike” but then breaking news report briefs enter like it’s the beginning of a play, catching us up on the story about their van being stolen. Feed back which is recognized as anger vibrates and hums until it ends with “Tell me you got good news” as the final quote
“In A Box” picks right up with chaotic guitar buzzing and a mess of sound for a minute. Poppy vocals begin, and a driving alternative song breaks free of the noise. There is a delicate balance of heavy musical elements and clear, crisp, pop-friendly vocals.
“Make Love, Not War” starts with distorted vocals, like a circus MC yelling for attention through a megaphone. The vocals continue more melodically throughout the driving, charging pop-punk song.
“Love In Between” has a trickling Candlebox-like guitar melody couple with an equally Candlebox like vocals. This is Candlebox-lite. There are some descent harmonies toward the end of the song. Still, it’s just like mid-90’s alternative.
“Tumbleweed” was not bad for the first couple of noted, then the whooshing chord and nasally self-important vocals took over to remind me of the part of 90’s music I never liked and associated with a small-town mentality. The hook in the chorus recaptures a bit of quality, though.
“Save Yourself/Interlude 1” separates the first act from the second, and is a fast-played folky story-song. Around 1:30, the chorus begins and it changes into a Blues Traveler song. The harmonica leads out to a second theatrical section of recorded audio of people reporting about the van played over children playing and a playschool piano. The last line is that the van was burned, so that seems soul crushing for the band

“Money Back” picks up with the anger and aggression through music, playing a pop-punk melody, even if the vocals are pleasant and forgiving. The vocal melody is poppy, and the song loses the aggressive start. The chorus lends it to be a party song, with group cheering accenting the pausing beats.
“No Pressure” is as if Candlebox covered Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life.” Overall it has a very annoying sing-song melody.
‘’The Queen is Coming” is a banjo based song that immediately feels like it will be a Weird Al original. The song loses the banjo and transitions into a generic alternative song, with minimal country/folk tendencies in a couple of the verse sections.
“Best For You / Interlude 2” starts out as a lame Sublime song, which is pretty lame to be lamer than the lame Sublime. After the song concludes, more headline snippets run over the destruction of the band’s van. The slight drumbeat carries over to the next song.

“Up and On My Way” features a 70’s country style tempo in the beginning with a jangly guitar and a skittering drum beat. The song then balloons into what could easily be interpreted as a Jesus song. It has the fake and polished poop promise feel of a “religion can save you” song.
“Long Live Rock N' Roll” still feels like a displaced intention song, like they want to really like this music, but don’t know how to get beyond the definition. The song is driving and should be rocking, but it feels muddled and pressed into a 2 dimensional imitation.
“Doin' Time” possesses a sinister start. It is a driving song with promise to build and the vocals are hushed and calculated. Then the chorus lets the vocals loose, and it becomes a slow-headbanging song. It reverts back to the quiet vocals for the verse again, but only promises to exert itself in the mood-killing chorus.
“Omaha / Interlude 3” sounds like a Cat Stevens song. It does not lose the mood as it enters its second verse. It just adds unnecessary vocal doubling and other over-stylized accents on a song that could otherwise just be a nice, thoughtful piece. The song ends at 3:11, and the last minute is the recovery of the van that was stolen and set on fire. Plus there was other good news of a new van. I don’t really see the connection of the news reports splitting up the album as such.

“Esta Vida” is a thankful Spanish guitar themed song. It feels gritty and dirty. The chorus adds Caribbean steel drums, and gives it a whole Red Hot Chili Peppers meets Sublime feel. No wait…it quickly shows its true colors and likens itself to more Candlebox.
“Emily Rose” starts out horrid with party chanting and a general feel of scuzz. But then it sheds that skin and blossoms into a Ska / Pop-Punk song. Hey, I kinda actually like this song. It feels like it could fit into Goldfinger’s catalogue. It is light, bouncy and fun with a solid, catchy hook or two. It never ruins itself with unnecessary production tweaks and benefits from the melodies toward the end.
“Owe it to You” is a light island themed love ballad. Reminds me a bit of the Hawaiian album I reviewed a while back. This is not representative of this band’s music, but here this song is: Part Jimmy Buffet and part Weird Al original.
“Slow Killer” sounds like another Cat Stevens song and I still get hints of Weird Al, specifically “Melanie” here. It is a nice and neat quiet way to wrap up an otherwise eccentric and over produced record. It is a very simple song with a simple message. It feels less fake than the rest of the songs, but it still feels very manufactured.
“Gavotten en Rondeau from Suite BWV 1006a” is a guitar suite, feeling like it is out of a renaissance conservatory or dimly lit mansion chamber.

Stand Out Track: Emily Rose

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