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Friday, October 28, 2005

My latest musical obsession

Coheed & Cambria
Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness

Upon listening to music with which I have not yet been exposed, I can have one of several reactions:

  • Outright dislike, which doesn't happen that often. There isn't much music that I actively dislike.
  • Indifference, which is what usually happens. The music goes in one ear and out the other without affecting me. I hear it, but I don't like it or dislike. I won't actively seek it out or shun it.
  • Moderate appreciation. I like this music somewhat. If it comes on the radio, I'll pay attention to it. I may even be tempted to buy it, but usually I'll regret it if I do, because I don't like it that much that I want to listen to it often enough to have justified the purchase.
  • Obsession. This is music I've fallen in love with. It gets played repeatedly, to the exclusion of almost everything else. I'll listen to something else almost reluctantly, then I'll fall back to listening to my obsession. It's usually not just one song, but a whole album. Sometimes that's a bad thing, as I'll get burned out on it.
People who have read me before may know that I am moderately obsessed with Rush. The obsession on my MP3 player for the longest time has been Vapor Trails (an album which -- to me -- keeps just getting better).

For the last several weeks, Coheed & Cambria's (I think the ampersand is required, and not the word "and") album Good Apollo, etc has become my obsession. I found it when I was checking out the latest album by The Mars Volta, Frances the Mute. It was ok, but I wasn't thrilled with it. But on the Amazon page for the album, I saw that a similar group was Co&Ca. So, ok, I checked out their samples, then went to their site, and found a video to their song "Welcome Home". Sounded pretty cool, so I decided to pick up the album. End of story. I'm hooked.

There are those who describe C&C as emo, emo-core, or pop/punk, and compare them to groups like Good Charlotte or Sum 41 (neither of whom are pop/punk in any case. Pop/punk would be Green Day, whose album American Idiot is a post-punk masterpiece). CoCa is none of those. This album is best described as progressive, prog-rock, or prog-metal. I can understand the comparisons to emo, because their overall tone (guitar tone is what I'm thinking of) is very trebly and high-end, not bass heavy, like other groups more directly identifiable as prog (in my mind, Tool and System of a Down). But, according to most definitions of progressive rock, CC clearly fit the bill.

For a history and description of the band, you could probably do no better than their Wikipedia entry. The entry also describes who "Coheed" and "Cambria" actually are (fictional characters in a sci-fi epic, whose story is told in the companion graphic novels written by C&C frontman Claudio Sanchez). All three of their albums supposedly revolve around various plot-points in these stories. Ok, whatever. I'm not a lyrics guy, so I don't really care about that.

Ok, so what gets me about this music? First, the song structure is complex. It's not your typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure. There are themes and motifs that appear throughout the album. Next, the orchestration (instrumental arrangement) of the songs is involved and involving. Often, the two guitars are playing different but related riffs which counterpoint each other very well. Third, these guys have chops. They know how to play their instruments. And not just in a Randy Rhoads-y show-offy kind of way. Their playing is complex and intricate but suits the songs very well.

These guys have often been compared to Rush, usually because of singer Claudio Sanchez' voice. It is high-pitched, sometimes to the point of squeakiness, so comparisons to Geddy Lee are natural. But I find that Sanchez' voice is actually more musical than Geddy's. And his phrasing is often very unusual. Yes, I can see where his voice might be grating (just like I can see where Geddy's voice might be grating), but it doesn't bother me.

However, I find other comparisons to Rush more appropriate. Their chops, their way of utilizing riffs, and their song structures are what make them seem comparable in my opinion.

I'm hoping that CoCa's earlier albums are of a similar quality to their latest offering, because they are on my wish-list now.

It's not often that I find music that I consider worthy of repeated listening. I'm glad I found these guys, and I look forward to their future releases.


  • Hey David. I stumbled across your blog via Technorati. Looks like we have a lot in common (libertarian, Rush-fan, tech geek, etc). I've been thinking about checking out C&C for a while now and I think your post just convinced me. My personal latest obsession is the Mars Volta. I suggest you give Frances the Mute another try. However, their first album (De-loused in the Comatorium) is better in my opinion. Definitely give that one a listen if you haven't already.

    I too am Rush-obsessed - have been since 1983. I just started a blog devoted entirely to Rush this week called Rush is a Band. I'm trying to get some traffic/feedback. Check it out if you get a chance- let me know what you think.

    Have a good weekend. Cheers.

    By Anonymous Ed, at 2:49 PM  

  • Cool review.

    I agree with Ed about the Mars Volta's first album being better. I am a Mars Volta fan, but don't like Frances the Mute.

    By Blogger suze, at 6:12 PM  

  • I have to admit I have never heard of them David. But I will have a listen based on your review. I really like Green Day BTW.

    By Anonymous Ruth, at 1:28 AM  

  • Not surprising to never have heard of them. They haven't hit it nearly as big as Green Day yet. They may be a bit too non-mainstream to ever make it to quite that level, but that's ok by me.

    By Blogger David, at 11:52 AM  

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