Spoken - Spoken
Record Label: Tooth & Nail Records
Release Date: September 25, 2007
Whenever Tooth and Nail Records signs a band it seems to go one of two ways. Either the band turns out to be something new and exciting (i.e. Anberlin, mewithoutYou), or they have the same trademark sound that Tooth and Nail is known for (i.e. Search the City, Number One Gun). However, very rarely can you say that any band they recruit isn’t talented, as stands in this case. With their first release on Tooth and Nail, A Moment of Imperfect Clarity, it seemed as if Spoken was going to fall into the same sound-alike trap. With their last two releases though, they successfully eluded the pit that most of these bands fall in. Spoken doesn’t have the same played out sound; nor though do they qualify for the “new and exciting” side of Tooth and Nail. However, they continue to put together albums that redefine their sound and make a definite impression.
Spoken’s last two studio efforts, Last Chance to Breathe and A Moment of Imperfect Clarity showed a marked difference from the rest of their discography (which now numbers at seven). These two albums both had much more pop appeal than anything they had previously released. Last Chance to Breathe however, shifted back into a more post-hardcore feel for them, with scattered screaming and one song featuring Cory Brandan (Norma Jean). Spoken, however, displays an even more blatant, though not overdone, shift to their harder roots.
As stated before, Spoken is their hardest release in recent years. A definite change can be noticed between this release and the past two. “History Erased” along with “Not Soon Forgotten” drive this point home. However, even with these tracks, the album is still not all that hard; “You’re the One” is a piano ballad, “Trading in this Troubled Heart” is far from hard, and “The Meaning of…” is an almost completely clean vocal track. Even though this may be their heaviest release, it's still not particularly hard and clean vocals still dominate the majority of the record.
Many Christian bands’ lyrics begin to annoy me, and this is no exception. One of my only qualms with the album, the lyrics are sometimes dull, and many songs deal with faith. The lyrics aren’t actually bad; the point of them just begins to become aggravating by the end of the album. Last Chance to Breathe sported some impressive lyrics, and it’s a letdown that they couldn’t top those with Spoken. They don't write anything witty, metaphorical, or otherwise impressive. A few lines from "Long Live the Dream" display this point well: "You are the only one to give up on your destiny/ don't let anyone take your dream away/ those on the outside can't live on the inside too/ you'll never touch the stars unless you try." These are just a couple lines, but the rest of the lyrics are basically about the same. Like I said before, the lyrics aren't "bad" they just seem forced in places.
As with many other bands, the defining factor for Spoken is the lead vocalist’s (Matt Baird) voice. It stays high for many songs but he has a fairly large range. Few singers’ screams can also complement their singing, but Baird's do. In “Close Your Eyes” for example, he switches back and forth from screams to clean vocals seamlessly. The way Baird controls his voice is the most attractive thing about this album; he masterfully escalates his emotional vocals into screams, or vice versa. “The Meaning of…” and “The Answer” may even qualify as some of the strongest vocal displays from any of Spoken’s releases.
Spoken has slowly been redefining their sound into something more contemporary and accessible. While this album is harder than the previous two, it is still a highly accessible album. With each new album they find a way to extend their influence to more fans. They may not be a Tooth and Nail powerhouse or sound-alike, but I for one will be patiently waiting to see what they come up with next.
There's nothing wrong with having a sound that's pretty similar to the rest of the artists on the label. It's pretty traditional for a label to sign bands that sound pretty alike, excluding Equal Vision and Epitaph... Yeah, anyway I wouldn't compare Spoken to Akissforjersey. But Spoken is still good. I enjoy "Bitter Taste" from Last Chance To Breathe and "Promise" from A Moment of Imperfect Clarity. Good stuff...
Nice review man. I definitely recommend that anyone see these guys live. They have great stage presence and sound very similar to their albums, which is always a plus. I definitely agree about their status within T&N, as far as being somewhat in the middle (not outstanding, but also not a carbon-copy), and I think that they're only gonna get better.