November – Begin the Fall
Record Label: None
Release Date: May 8, 2007
Who the hell is November? Drawing together bits and pieces of the 90s rock scene and mixing vigorously, this band has produced a sound that resembles fragments of Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Dishwalla, and many more names off of my dusty middle school CD collection. But this isn’t a simple derivation. Throw all those bands into a carnival funhouse and the picture might be a bit more accurate: some parts are entertaining, some parts are disappointing, and some parts are just downright scary.
I’m still not entirely sure what to think about November. They seem to be a band caught between “knowing their roots” and actually progressing as a mature, creative force. Vocalist Hunter Briley channels Layne Staley and Eddie Vedder and his gravelly melodies complement the band’s crunching guitars and uncomplicated (sometimes to a fault) lyrics. Their straight-laced rock steams forward in black and white throughout Begin the Fall, shifting jarringly from boring recitations to fantastic, infectious songwriting. In one respect, it’s frustrating that my finger keeps itching for the ‘Track Forward’ button on my laptop every four minutes or so. But on the other hand, the promise November show is extremely encouraging. There’s simply no comparing two tracks like “Bloom” and “Look Inside.” The first numbs the sensitive ear with plodding, mindless distortion and uninspired melodies while the second opens a door into the expansive musical talents of the band.
November are not entirely to blame for the confusion elicited by this release. Some countries might indict the album’s producers (Elisha Hoffman, Chad Brown, and Michael Dale) for crimes against humanity for allowing Briley to add an off-key falsetto background vocal to “In Dreams,” nearly ruining one of Begin the Fall’s best tracks. Unfortunately, sour notes pop up in several other places throughout, and it’s not the cutesy, look-we’ve-got-such-a-raw-sound kind of dissonance. It’s just lazy and unprofessional.
It certainly can’t be denied that there are some excellent things happening on this album. “Look Inside” deftly combines jangling guitars and aerial vocals, “I Know You” is almost shocking in its soaring passion, and “Into You” expands as soon as it leaves the speakers, emanating splendor in rock form (this track could easily be an Our Lady Peace b-side). But for each of these, there’s a “Firecracker”, a disastrous attempt at an Alice in Chains clone, or a “Come On, Come On,” dripping with senseless growls and jumbled power chords.
November are toeing the line between sincere, quality rock and tired, recycled throwaways. At this point, there is every reason to believe that they’ll temper the defects that marred Begin the Fall and allow their true talents to shine through. We can only hope.