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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
The Promise Ring
Wood/Water
Anti Records

Rating: NR/10 ?


October 1, 2004
Can anyone really win with The Promise Ring? I think everyone's been a little overwhelmed by this band at some point, and I think everyone's been a little let down at some point as well. Being a longtime follower, the first impression of 30' Everywhere still looming large, I was comfortable with the change on Nothing Feels Good. I could support that album. Boys & Girls left a bitter taste in my mouth, but it had pretty good artwork. Very Emergency, as you can read below, was harder to stomach but I didn't loathe it. Electric Pink tripped the line and went too far, disappointing almost all around. I thought The Promise Ring were goners, wafting away to the land of cutesy-pop happy songs, destine to waste away in bargain bins and VW Bug promos. Well, as Wood/Water points out, they were headed that direction but took a detour, crossing in more of the lo-fi alt-country stylings of a weak Modest Mouse. The results are different, maybe even better than the sellout we'd all expected.

In a recent promotional interview for their new label, the Epitaph imprint Anti Records, front man Davey von Bohlen remarked that the Promise Ring "are not satisfied to be placed in a small genre and live out a moderate existence playing only for the members of these specific tastes." That statement could be interpreted a million ways, but the truth of the matter for most is that the Milwaukee band has been on a credibility death spiral with its core fan base for the past five years, a time during which the band has seemingly gone from an average age of 21 to 41.

Wood/Water is the monetary payoff for nearly a decade's worth of dirty basements and dirtier vans, the final breaking point where the energy and punch of youthful aggression falls away completely, replaced by an overt languidness and desire to reinvent. The twelve tracks here, mostly recorded and mixed in the U.K., are far more indicative of a Vermont album than a Promise Ring album with studio structuring, layers, effects and a mopey pace. Truth be told this isn't a bad pop album, but it's totally impossible to digest as a Promise Ring album, because this simply isn't the same band that wrote and recorded "E. Texas Ave.". They'll say they're a better band, but the rating stars next to their releases form an inverted pyramid on just about every music critic's list. What began as a five-star unit of sharp, powerful and poetic songs has devolved into wispy, temperamental acousti-rock for the office break room. Old school Promise Ring fans should take cover, new school fans of the skewed Kindercore pop scene should take notice - this is AM/FM crossed with The Beatles and played by Vermont.

One last weird thing to mention about this album is that - POOF! - Scott Schoenbeck is gone, replaced by Ryan Weber of Camden without much acknowledgement on the record. Camden, on the other hand, has apparently been absorbed by The Promise Ring, with front man William Seidel singing backups for the band full time, even appearing as the mysterious 5th Ringer in the band's publicity photos. But there isn't much recognition for Seidel either, his name appearing in fine print in the Thank You's, after the band's manager and several others. Oh well, at least the artwork is cool.

Reviewed by Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other reviews by Eric J Herboth

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