Socratic - Socratic
Record Label: Self-Released
Release Date: January 10, 2012
If there is one word to encompass the return of Socratic with their third full-length, I’d be inclined to pick calculated. It would be double-edged to say you can tell the band spent the better part of their time these past two years tinkering, reworking and perfecting what would end up being the final product we would come to know as Socratic, but in the same sentence, it is easy to point out that the extra time between records allowed something a bit more provocative to be created this time around . Teetering between twangy, straight-forward rock numbers and the lush, grandiose-leaning folksy tunes of old, this is the realization of finding the middle ground that Socratic vocalist Duane F. Okun spoke of recently. Whether you were more for Spread the Rumors or still yearned for Lunch for the Sky, Socratic is a moving, thought out record that brings the band’s sound full circle without sounding too forced or contrived in the process.
Never really sticking to one denominator through the entirety of Socratic, we weave through gorgeous guitar twangs (“Curtain Call”, “Famous for Nothing”) and energetic rockers (“Sister”) on a path through deliberate applications of melody and emotion in an often laid-back fashion. That isn’t to say this is a boring record by any means, as the pacing feeds us equal parts upbeat optimism and frank storytelling tinged with the occasional trumpet or piano line to spice up the mix. The hovering tone and vibe of this record showcases quite a bit, whether it be the smooth, trumpet-spiked melodies of “Charlie Parker (Music Will Save His Soul)” or the mysteriously funky “Flowers in the Garden” – a track that feels strangely familiar yet entrancing at the same time – giving us a moody piano line and quirky, offbeat guitars to flank Okun’s mellow voice. Even with its familiarity, the dark, brooding melodies and searing guitar ending make this easily one of the more intriguing tracks of the bunch. On that same note, not everything we unknowingly dive into works just as well, as “Save Yourself” comes off as a bit too busy and off the mark to feel as good musically as the lyrics would suggest you should.
Balancing out that ambitiousness though is a deep-rooted desire for guitar-backed folk numbers that rely less on strength and addition and more on simplicity, subtlety and sincerity. “Give & Take Two” still tosses in some random bits of percussion and has spurts of piano without being distracting, but at its heart is an acoustic cut of honesty about friendships and image. Ender “The Truth in Lies” is even more stripped down, leaving us with Okun and some guitars to end this record on a simple, yet baring note. It might not be everything we were hoping for at this point in the record, but it brings us back to the core of what we’ve been hearing all along without trying to add too much and ruin in the moment.
Lyrically, Okun is expressive yet honest to the dire end here, as name-dropping Max Bemis (“The Critics”), blunt recollections of relationships (“Sister”) and insistence on living for the future (“Living in Dreams”) make their way into the ideas brought to the table here. It really is a message of coming to grips with what is going on around you and learning how to not deal or cope, but live with it. The crafted melodies in the vocal department transform this shifting message into something that always feels optimistic regardless of what muse is being drawn from in the creation of often less formulaic lyrical structuring. You probably won’t grasp a dozen lines from every song on the first listen because it isn’t being beat into your head – but you will be inclined to learn the words because of how they are crafted.
After the gap since Spread the Rumors, Socratic sounds arguably more focused and creative than we’ve heard them before. While many had their reasons to be drawn to both of the band’s previous records, Socratic appeals to even the weary critic who wasn’t sure this band still had it in them. This is proof Socratic does.
The review pretty much sums up my feelings towards the record. Honestly a good record but I still yearn for that Lunch for the sky-era sound. That sound may never be coming back and I will have to accept that. That being said the album really has some great songs and is definitely worth the buy.