Red Room Cinema - Red Room Cinema Released July 2007
Bad lyrics ruin everything.
Have we ever thought about why there are people like this? Yeah, FOX News sure loves the issue of education (on days I actually I tune in, curious enough), but who can believe any piece of fact-nugget one can pull from that bottomless pit of bias? The integrity of our schools in areas that need it most have been called into question, and for all I know that very well may be the biggest proponent of ignorance, and in this introduction's case -- the love of low-brow, bottom-feeding lyrical buck-makers that have degraded sects of our society into a crowd that are wholly appeased with rehashing and surface-skimming. These cliched words, this badminton game of objectification, banality, sugar-coating, and shitfaced gravitation to High School hallway social-agendas-to-song seemingly serve to hypnotize the youth and anyone else willing to compromise their decency (in the eyes of a free-thinker) for a good hook. I live in the MTV nation, amongst the Souja society. Of course, I’m probably reading too deep or being far too critical for the sake of reviewing a primarily instrumental band, clean from the uninspired muck I refer to above. Or is it?
Red Room Cinema hail from my home city of Tampa, Florida, but like most instrumental units – they cover their geographical tracks for a more despondent position on the musical spectrum. It’s unlike post-rockers to throw in even a little sunshine, save for Ecstatic Sunshine or Don Caballero’s “Palm Trees in the Feckin’ Bahamas” (anyone?), but they have a voice, per sey, of their own. Yeah, don’t worry, I’m not wasting my time telling you about another Snake Trap or anything – I’ve learned to leave shit in the toilet. And Red Room’s debut seems to figure leaving vocals (and therefore lyrics, making my rant above and conclusion below perfectly valid) at an absolute minimum would benefit the cinematic flow of the album. Anthony Maltese’s vocals are introduced nearly two songs in, breaking loose in the finale of the second track, “The Fledgling”. “Take all that I have/You seal it with your smile/Too soon to walk away/Seems cruel but fits the part” A little lacking, right? It’s not all 10th grade art-journal scribbling, but note that I applauded the band keeping vocals, hence lyrics, to a minimum.
Red Room’s instrumentation, in its quietest moments, is luscious and velvety. “Exalted in the Technique of Homicide”, specifically the first two minutes, goes down like a perfected, hole-in-the-wall coffee house Chai latte – delicious, smooth, and utterly soothing. Beyond the song’s balmy introduction is a lesson in bringing out the inner monster in guitars while still keeping the clashing mess pertinent to the song’s devastating beauty. Juxtaposing these drastically separate elements in one song, and doing it right, is a sign of a great (primarily) instrumental unit. The closing, “Moonrace”, is a proponent of Red Room’s adeptness in the very same way – grunge bass-lines laugh and cackle under a consistently powerful rolling wave of guitar dominance, in one way or another. Then there's the graceful, starry-eyed songs that make it inevitable for a reviewer to namedrop Explosions In T--well, you know. Enter "Close Your Eyes and Count to Ten", which in itself sounds like a B-side for How Strange, Innocence. Sound samples of children playing with meandering, symphonic guitar picking curtailed by a sudden and desperate crescendo -- pretty much a post-rock wet dream. The eleven minute long "At Long Last The Sun Has Set..." is just as lovely, though more sanguine --a soundtrack to sailing into a sunset.
But how many times have we heard all this? Does it have anything beneath the surface?
Red Room Cinema's self-titled is indeed a great, great album. However, it just doesn't have an encompassing point or unifying theme. Stay with me: like Explosions involved a sort of desolate, nautical imagery in All of a Sudden..., Godspeed used an apocalyptic future as inspiration for the bleakly orchestrated F# A# (Infinity), and Boards of Canada's Music Has the Right to Children using their trademark documentary-inspired electronics to paint a panorama of the carefree, but developing, perception of a child. All of the classic instrumental albums I know of have a reason for existence, a particular factor each song can share. Without lyrics to tie everything together, there has to be something that gives the album a voice of its own.
Note that at this point I'm not even considering the fact the album does include vocals, because you'll realize those few parts are the parts that won't stay with you. The band establishes their stance with the delicate/chaotic instrumentation. While Red Room does just about everything right in that respect, you can tell during various points in the duration of the seven songs that they're trying very, very hard to be how they think they should be. Maybe this is just me, but an assembly of pretty songs is an enjoyable hour or less of listening, but without a brain behind the twinkly instrumentation, that's all it is -- something to listen to. I could name nine or ten albums like this one off the top of my head that I can feel. Without a vocalist, the listener is given the opportunity to connect to the music alone, in your own way, without using lyrics as a crutch to get yourself started. So maybe it's a good thing this album includes vocals -- to give it more of a personality than if it had just been a slightly punker Explosions in the Sky. Somehow, though, I doubt anyone would care either way.