Recommended Albums #39

three3: Revisions (2009)

Joey Eppard is quite simply a beast. As lead guitarist, lead vocalist and main songwriter of the band with the Google search-challenged moniker of 3, he’s the kind of talent TV shows like American Idol and The Voice are geared not to discover–which is probably a post for another day, but I’ll touch on it here anyway.

In 1964 the Beatles essentially began re-formatting youth culture. It’s always kind of cute when a latter-day band is compared with them in any serious way (or when a band–Oasis, for example–has the stones to make the comparison themselves) because the fact is no band since the Beatles has come close to making the kind of impact they had on music and culture. We can talk about everything from haircuts to sitars here, but pertinent to the matter at hand is the fact that they helped make the rock foursome–lead, rhythm and bass guitars and a drummer–de rigueur.

There have been many exceptions, of course. To achieve a different purpose, a different–and usually larger–configuration is required. Jam bands who feature multiple soloists, for example; or ELO.

But for most of the past 50 years when most kids dreamed of making it in music, their dream usually included a few pals, three guitars and a drum kit.

And one more thing: original songs. The Beatles, in defining the new Pop Standard, included writing  new pop standards. Elvis hadn’t needed to write his own songs to become an icon of the young in the 50’s. Country singers still don’t. But in the pop and rock music arenas in the last half-century there has been a premium on good original songwriting, and the artists performing their own compositions just have more credibility, in part because that’s the way the Beatles did it.

Slowly, though, that imprint seems to finally be giving ground to a new and, I would insist, a lesser, standard. In the era of the modern singing competition TV show genre, momentum is swinging toward a new de facto format: the solo artist with microphone. American Idol and its competitors are now funneling prefabricated “stars” into the recording studios and up the charts every year, most of whom share these common traits: no ability to play an instrument or to write songs.

Perhaps if there were a successful show with a focus on young rock bands, it would help bring us back around to an appreciation of that combination of instrumental virtuosity and writing talent that none of these shows is showcasing, and the playing field would tilt again toward talents other than voice.

In the absence of such a change, many talents like Joey Eppard are destined to exist in popular music’s margins, remaining undiscovered by the public at large, perhaps selling enough music to carry on year to year, and perhaps not.

The music of 3 straddles metal, prog and even emo. But essentially their forte is propulsive melodic rock which blends acoustic and electric textures to exhilarating effect, with lyrics which may have you scratching your head if you try to understand every line. But when it comes to any kind of metal, I always prefer head-scratching to mind-numbing. Eppard’s songs do have a degree of lyrical sophistication–this is no Mötley Crüe record.

These arrangements are polished, well-constructed, and filled with sonic detail. Eppard and Co. know how to build up to great moments within a song, such as the guitar solo, intercut with vocals, which reaches a climax at 2:27 in “The Better Half of Me”.

They also take the trouble to show originality even in the way they end a song. There are bands who rely heavily on formula here, ending most of their songs in the same way simply because it’s not a priority to “write” an ending. Then there’s the work of a great band like Fleetwood Mac, who often wrote a coda, unlike any other part of the song, as a conclusion. (Think of the “falling, falling, falling” ending to “Say You Love Me” or the “ooh, don’t you look back” that fades out on “Don’t Stop”) That, I suspect, is attributable to Christine McVie and Lindsay Buckingham’s dedication to pop craftsmanship. “Rabid Animals” and “Automobile” are, similarly, songs that have original, written endings and not just a lazy fadeout. These songs, and this band, seem to have a pure strain of 70’s-80’s classic rock running in their veins.

Revisions’ title is a reference to the fact that it is a collection of previously-recorded songs that the band saw fit to give new life to, since they’d refined their sound quite a bit over a 5-album span. Although it wasn’t universally well-received by the band’s established fans (who were eager for new material at the time) it is the ideal introduction to the band for the uninitiated.

If this is a “metal” band, as they’re usually categorized, they’re the best kind–much less concerned with showing off their shredding skills than filling their songs with great hooks.

Listen to: “Rabid Animals”

Listen to: “The Better Half of Me”

Listen to: “Automobile”

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jimmy Eppard
    Feb 27, 2013 @ 16:53:57

    I can attest to the fact that young Joey Eppard often heard ‘fade outs’ referred to as ‘Cop outs’ by his bastard of a father.

    signed: Joey Eppard’s bastard of a father

    Reply

    • Ed Cyphers
      Feb 27, 2013 @ 20:46:10

      I’m that kind of dad too!

      Glad I’m not the only one listening to things like song endings! In my opinion, your influence was a good thing.

      Thanks for reading.

      Reply

  2. Jim
    Feb 27, 2013 @ 18:14:55

    Better Half of Me: more pop than I’m used to from Joey/3, but me likey!

    Reply

    • Ed Cyphers
      Feb 27, 2013 @ 20:56:41

      Yeah, I agree, having heard a few other albums. Personally, though, I love this record and think the band sound amazing when they lean toward this sound.

      The latest album is great too, though.

      I was really disappointed to read the comments of fans on sites like Prog Archives who seem to suggest this album was somehow a waste of the band’s time since it’s re-recorded material. I just want to register one emphatic vote in the other direction: This album was my introduction to the band. The versions here ARE clearly superior to the previous versions. And by making this album, they made a fan for life of me, when no other record of theirs might have done that.

      I thank you guys for having the good judgment to make a record like this one. It’s a showcase for good songs (in improved versions) that I’d have otherwise never heard. This album is the best introduction to 3 for any fan that doesn’t approach the band as a devoted fan of metal in general.

      Reply

  3. Trackback: Singing as if Prizes Depended on It | Ed Cyphers

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