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Middle Eight, The - Unwind Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 7
Musicianship 7.25
Lyrics 7.75
Production 7
Creativity 6.75
Lasting Value 7
Reviewer Tilt 7.25
Final Verdict: 71%
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Middle Eight, The - Unwind

Reviewed by: Susan Frances (07/23/08)
The Middle Eight - Unwind
Record Label: Unsigned
Release Date: 2007

Very few bands have put Queens, New York on the rock ‘n’ roll road map, but the rock quartet The Middle Eight are hoping to change that in the way that The Beatles made Liverpool, England a hub for musicians to congregate, and U2 did the same for Dublin, Ireland. The Middle Eight show that in their small corner of the world, outside influences have come in and penetrated the way that the band plays. Produced by Jeff Peretz, The Middle Eight’s latest release, Unwind shows a connection with the folksy stylized musings of Wilco and the appealing alternative pop mediocrity of Weezer, The Middle Eight’s music has the potential to resonate with college students and post-graduates who are figuring out their way through life. A lot about the album feels like the band is feeling their way around in the dark, and they are always acting with good intentions in mind.

Lead singer/guitarist Jason Olshan has a pitch that has the rustic fringes of Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo and the melodic bearings of The National’s Matt Berninger. Lead guitarist Matt Williamson makes sharp cuts sparingly like in “Can You Feel It.” And the rhythm section of bassist Steve Plekan and drummer Tallin Lamonaca maintain a versatile elasticity that is chameleon-like, taking on whatever shape the melody wants them to take. The rhythms move from the rock ledged grooves of “Can You Feel It” to the languid surfs of “Not Right by Me” with complete ease. The band plays middle of the road tunage like the folk rock incisions slicing through “I’m Not, Are You?” which have a garnish relatable to Jesse Malin, as too do the soft rock mounds of “Can’t Stop Her” and “Disappointing Act” which have a tinge of country-folk in rhythms that gristle the guitar cutlets.

The pastoral textures give the impression that The Middle Eight grew up far away from the bustling action of the city, but some tracks enliven the band’s exhaust power like the brisk movements of “Everyone Is an Addict” and the rock vibrations of “Can You Feel It.” The Middle Eight hit a bluesy frequency with the modern stylized bebop track “Sammy Ray,” and the moonlight serenade temperatures of “Take Me.” The gently modulating keys of “World of Forms” and “Leave” have a classic rock tint and roominess that stretches out the harmonies into panoramic lengths. The lyrics focus on issues that come up when in an intimate relationship like in “I’m Not, Are You?” Olshan’s voice rains down, “Well I know you’re tired but so am I / Don’t you ever wonder why? / If you make your life into a drama all the time, you’re bound to cry / Can you stop burning in the spotlight / Long enough to see me at stage right / We’re unimpressed with your performance today / Too bad your encore will never play.”

The Middle Eight may have not exactly put Queens on the rock ‘n’ roll road map with Unwind, but they are on their way there. The band took their name, The Middle Eight from the British term for a song interlude. They jest on their website and call it “a London Bridge, if you will.” The band’s live performances have focused on playing in the New York City/Metropolitan area, but they are eager to take their music further recently playing shows in the Cape Cod area. The band has announced on their website that they have been filmed for the movie “The Rebound” by director Bart Freundlich (the husband of actress Julianne Moore). The movie is due out in 2009 and the band says that they play themselves. Two of The Middle Eight’s songs will be featured in the movie and on the soundtrack. Sometimes those ten minutes of fame can stretch out a lot further, and The Middle Eight will do everything that they can to make that happen.

Recommended if you like: The National, Wilco, Weezer, Jesse Malin

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