Telephone & Telegraph - North South East West
Record Label: Roam the River Records
Release Date: July 29, 2007
Diversity is a wonderful thing. If there is one thing I’ve continuously harped upon in my past reviews, it’s that to be enjoyable for the entirety of an album a band must be able to change things up every now and then. Few bands are able to stray from their core sound while still retaining a certain level of quality throughout. Telephone & Telegraph do an admirable job of pulling this off on their release North South East West. Telephone & Telegraph are a rock band with a heavy southern flair; probably the best way to describe them is as a more upbeat Lucero or a less gritty Nothington.
The album begins with the bouncy riffs of “Old Heartache.” This song is as good as any to showcase the more lethargic side of the vocals. Luckily the toe-tapping inducing music is more than adequate and seems to be more of the driving force behind the song. This trend continues for the first half of the album, and the band often has long breadths of time where they let their instruments do the talking for them. This changes completely on “Sea Legs” where, for the first time, the vocals seem up to par with the rest of the band. This makes for easily the best song on the album. “All the Kids Are Gonna Hate Us” follows suit and shows the band picking up speed to completely revitalize the album. Track nine, “Lost and Found,” brings out the harmonica and shows the band is able to pull of the slower sound suitably well. “’Neath the Sycamore Tree” closes things out with a haunting tone not shown on the rest of the album. At about eight minutes long, if it were to be placed anywhere else on the album, it would probably kill the momentum. However, as a closer it works perfectly and is a fitting end to North South East West.
While they do a good job keeping North South East West interesting throughout the 40 minute runtime, there are some notable flaws that keep an otherwise good album from being great. For one, the vocals of Chris Woodhead are incredibly inconsistent. At times they are full of energy and engaging, while at other times they seem half-hearted and almost bored. Sometimes this change even occurs during the same song. Another problem is, while they are more than willing to change things up, there is nothing even slightly original about this album. It’s all been done before by much better bands. That said, I’ve always been of the opinion originality in music is overrated and doesn’t necessarily make or break a band. But others might not feel the same, so it is important to note.
Telephone & Telegraph are a promising band with plenty of room to grow. Their ability to stay well within their southern rock home while at the same time making their music interesting is not something to be overlooked. They seem to have a good grip on something that seems to elude and consequently hinder many otherwise great bands. However, the inconsistency vocal-wise and lack of originality hurts them in the long run and keeps them from being at the top of their growing genre. North South East West isn’t an album I would say is a must buy, but it is definitely at least worth a look.