platters (2006-29)

B-Sides, Barstools and Breakups

Sufjan Stevens

The Accident Experiment

Witch

Sufjan Stevens

Now that parallel universe has broken into our own. Stevens, noting that those B-sides ought to be heard due to the success of his tribute to the Prairie State, has released The Avalanche , a 21-song collection of outtakes and extras that might best be described as Illinois -lite.

The potential problem, of course, is that fans might realize those extra songs were best left unheard. As good a songwriter as Stevens is, even he isn’t above crashing and burning before a fickle public. And nothing can turn a crowd quite like an artist who thinks his material is worth more than it really is.

To be fair, Stevens has stated that even he doesn’t like The Avalanche as much as Illinois . And while that still begs the question, “So why release it?,” at the very least this will tide Stevens’ most rabid fans over until he can finish up the third of his states-themed albums.

None of this is to say that Avalanche is a bad record. It’s not. It’s just that you can tell it’s a batch of songs that didn’t make the grade. In fact, some of the cuts are fantastic. “Pittsfield,” “Springfield,” and “Dear Mr. Supercomputer” easily should have found their way onto Illinois . Others, like multiple versions of “Chicago” and instrumental tracks like “The Palm Sunday Tornado Hits Crystal Lake,” may just leave you scratching your head.

The Accident Experiment

As P.O.D. went on to release its third mainstream album, Curiel and his new band released an EP, opened for acts like Foo Fighters, Cypress Hill and Korn, and created a sizeable buzz in Southern California. Three years later the band has released its first full length.

Unlike P.O.D.’s hodgepodge of rap, rock, Latin and reggae, The Accident Experiment is a musically adventurous hard-rock band. Taking cues from Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, it mixes abrupt rhythm changes, moody guitars and hooky melodies.

The outcome is a far cry from the homogenized sound of radio rock. In fact, if you can hear anything in United We Fear , it’s a sense of freedom. Perhaps that’s because vocalist Pete Stewart, another fallen angel from the Christian music scene, joins Curiel. Stewart’s dark, wailing voice leads listeners down twisting sonic passages and across hesitant emotional footholds. Stewart sounds like a pastor’s kid who has lost his faith in both God and love. But it’s his faith in music that will set you free.

Witch

Driven by the insistent thud of Mascis’ heavy-handed backbeat (the talented singer-guitarist has played drums before, in a couple of hardcore outfits back in his days prior to Jr.), Thomas and Irons weave warbly solos and minor-key sludge riffs around power chords that lumber and lurch like some drunken Jurassic behemoth. At first blush, Thomas’ high-pitched, nasally lead vocals don’t quite seem to fit with the rest of the program—until he lets loose, less than halfway through opening track “Seer,” with the kind of blood-curdling proto-metal scream little heard since Robert Plant recorded “The Immigrant Song.” You’ll find plenty of heavy rock bands more original than Witch going around nowadays, but damn few are this tasty. 

© 2006 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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