The Ready Aim Fire! - Strong Enough
Record Label: Unsigned
Release Date: June 14, 2008
"So now, I'm a traitor" is the introductory phrase Dave Trautz stutters on opening song, "That Elevator," immediately letting us know that he is imperfect; like us, Trautz is human and he fucks up, gets ahead of himself and is prone to feeling emotions he'd rather not have to feel. It's easy to relate to songwriters who carefully stay away from trying too hard to sound creative, but still remain poetic and thoughtful in their own introspective manner. Trautz obviously isn't combing over his thesaurus, struggling to impress his listeners - he's merely being as open as he can be, as if he's recorded his conversations and is singing them to us all over again.
Trautz is the center of attention on Strong Enough, his one man act (he's responsible for everything on this disc except for the drum playing) The Ready Aim Fire's third official release. As sort of a less poetic and whiny Chris Carrabba (Dashboard Confessional) with the unique storytelling vocalization of Max Bemis (Say Anything), Trautz has managed to make a record for the indie record store kid inside all of us, creating a moody and textured atmosphere that remains wholly simple and well-crafted without trying so hard to make it seem that way (check out the schizophrenia present ion "Covered in Bruises"). The lyrics are melancholy and honest in a way that reveals Trautz to be flawed and hateful against himself while desperately seeking the happiness we all ultimately crave. For instance, on "Strangers Now," Trautz pleads, "Say you love me, even if you don't mean it," offering up one example of the desperation he never steers away from. Every track reveals an ugly side to human nature, affection towards the demons we attempt to exorcise and understanding that they are there and make us stronger people. "We're both covered in bruises that we don't have to try to hide," he refrains on "Covered in Bruises," accepting his rough-around-the-edges exterior.
Riddled with electronic flourishes and one constant drum beat, the instrumental exterior of the record is groove-oriented, a backdrop for Trautz to showcase his articulate vocal delivery, in which every word is pronounced perfectly and sung in a faintly similar fashion to Max Bemis and Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie/The Postal Service). That might be the only drawback for many listeners, as it does seem to sound a bit too familiar for its own good, and the sound rarely drifts into anything revolutionary - hints of organ and synth swing in and out of many songs, over a steady drum beat and swirling guitars that hardly ever give the songs a great deal of bite. The eight-minute "Broken Down Limousine" desperately wants to be a Brand New track but does not offer up enough to the listener to keep their attention for close to ten minutes. "The Arctic Surge" could easily be mistaken for a Say Anything-meets-Postal Service track, which sounds pleasant enough, but doesn't work wonders for establishing your own sound.
By no means is this a redundant record, though. Trautz is a gifted musician who sings from his inner-blogger point of view, while matching wits with a lovesick and honest male who doesn't hide away from his vulnerability. Admitting he makes mistakes, Trautz refuses to hide the fact the voice he writes from is perfect or entirely lovable, which works in his favor. The moody pops and ongoing wave of Kid A-type electronics on "Til It Sings, Til It Screams" is the most truth-laden track to reflect this notion, haunting and elegant in a way that after listening to the lyrics, makes you want to shower. All this is to the advantage of The Ready Aim Fire who, with a little variety, could step up to be something big in the indie music world; the right ingredients are all there, they just need to be correctly dealt out. Trautz has the right idea going and is continually reshaping his talents to make electronic indie-pop with hints of dark, pure human emotion, he just needs to distance himself from the similarities.
Strong Enough deserves time to be played. It's a cohesive album that is a candid and sincerely honest spilling on one's guts, layered under heavy electronics and a lively orchestration of noises and beats. If you give it the time it deserves, it will make more sense to you and earn your respect if not for its candor, for the effort put into it.