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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Waxing Poetics - Hermitage

Band: Waxing Poetics
Album: Hermitage
Year: 1986
Style: College Radio, Jangle-Pop
Similar Bands: REM, Game Theory, World Party, Let's Active
"One Word" Review: Jangle-Jam
Based Out Of: Norfolk VA
Label: Roadrunner, Emergo, Important Record Distributions

 Hermitage - Cover & Record
Hermitage - Back & Record & Autographs
Hermitage (1986)

  1. Beauty & the Beatitudes 2:49
  2. If You Knew Sushi 2:43
  3. Living Chairs (going through the walls) 3:40
  4. Fridays Child 4:31
  5. Return 3:15
  6. Distinction/ 3:40
  7. Walking on Thin Legs 2:59
  8. Mrs. Dance's Skeleton 4:01
  9. This Parade 4:14
  10. Hermitage 4:23
  11. A Year By Air 2:35
Album Rating (1-10): 6.0

Members & Other Bands:
David Middleton - Vox, Guitar, Production (The Probe, Smile, Splotch, Floyds of Flatbush)
Sean Hennessy - Bass, Vox, Production
Paul Tiers - Guitar, Vox, Harmonica, Production (The Probe, Mike Cross, The Master Plan, Splotch, Wharton Tiers Ensemble)
Bil Shearin - Drums Percussion, Production (Rumblefish, Left Wing Fascists, The Glory Hounds, Brian Grilli)
Mitch Easter - Engineer, Production (Sneakers, Let's Active, REM, Kimberley Rew, Windbreakers, Susanne Vega, Game Theory, Someloves, Myra Holder, Chris Stamey, Loud Family, Helium, Velvet Crush, )
Mike Mills - Production. Piano (REM, The Baseball Project, Warren Zevon, Indigo Girls, The Troggs)
Ted Jansen - Mastering 
Carol Taylor - Art Direction, Cover Concept, Painting, Backing Vox, Manager
Michael Cope - Front & Back Photography

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of this band before. I got this record a number of years ago, for reasons I don’t think I even knew then. But based on the name and album cover, it looks like hyper-intelligent indie crap that is too clever for its own good. From the cover and names, it looks tedious, and probably is incredibly boring mid 80’s college radio fodder.

Album Review: Waxing Poetic was a mid-80’s Athens pop dream. Featuring production from both Mike Mills of REM and Mitch Easter of everything else, one would have to imagine that the band knew the exact direction they were going. They are still friends and will play reunion shows to this day, so even though they only had 3 albums, they never really quit. Oddly enough, this album was put out by Roadrunner/Emergo, which mainly focuses on metal acts like Life of Agony, Slipknot, Dream Theater, and The Devil Wears Prada.

“Beauty & the Beatitudes” starts with a “What I Like About You” bass line, and soaring guitar. The vocals fall somewhere in the middle with controlled energy, but with an adventurous melody.  Quick changes to the melody keep you guessing in a good way.
“If You Knew Sushi” was produced as an MTV video back in 1987, and is much more of what I expected: a jangly song, starting out with acoustic guitar. The song is quirky, but still manages to be quite reserved in an under-produced, flat, singer songwriter way.  
“Living Chairs (going through the walls)” is a bit of Alt Country, with a jangly pop melody and harmonica. This is the tedious sort of song I expected, where, at the root, are good pop melodies, but they are covered over by extraneous elements of meandering guitar and muted percussion; not to mention the harmonica, which is treated like a soloing electric guitar instrument.
“Fridays Child” is a darker groove, with the bass heavy and out in front. The vocals are subdued and deeper. If this had heavier guitars, it could have been produced to fit into Nirvana’s catalogue, sounding a little like “Serve the Servants” in the chorus.
“Return” literally returns the listener to the sunnier side, sounding like a Blues Traveler track here. As the folksy rock song continues, the electric guitar becomes a bigger part, and it continues to build right up to a final rest at the end
“Distinction” starts with a pounding drum intro, leading right into the true feel of the song: a funky jam-band bass line. A little Spin Doctors here.

“Walking on Thin Legs” is a straightforward power pop song with bold chord changes and a smooth delivered vocal performance. The melody gently rolls along gaining steam for the crunching chorus. The instrumental break after the first two sections is a bit too jangly, taking away from the song’s power characteristics. All that said, the song is not that powerful of a song; it’s just a nice repeating melody, reminding me of the Posies for some reason.
“Mrs. Dance's Skeleton” enters with a slow, stumbling drum beat, and guitars are added just as sparsely. The vocals are weary and hushed, and this feels like a slow dance shuffle and sway.  
“This Parade” starts with a watery, jangly guitar sound, and picks up to Squeeze-like pop pace, just not nearly as interesting. Even when it gets to the chorus, the vocals are mixed below the guitars and bass, and are thus, not clear, bold, or punchy. The verse-chorus repeats on a rather short loop. The instrumental is mostly the bass line looping, and therefore, does not add much to the song. This part of the song falls into a jam-band style of time killing.
“Hermitage” is the title track, and one of the first songs the band recorded to be released. It starts out with a continuously bass and drum driving tempo and breathless lyrical approach. The verse seems to go on forever without release into a proper chorus. The “Tables are turnin’” section that constitutes the chorus is just an extension of the same melody with extra emphasis on the randomish jangly guitar brought up from the background.
“A Year By Air” slows the album down to a southern acoustic guitar and a mid tempo waltzing drive. The song feels close and localized, like it is trying to spark a sing a long.

Stand Out Track: Beauty & the Beatitudes


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