Play> - Play>
Record Label: DrB Records
Release Date: November 18, 2008
Play> come to us from Portland, Oregon with a sound that combines styles that work in a way that seems to throw back to different times in music. Their self-titled debut seeks to simply “rock as hard as humanly possible,” rather than attempt to start something new in the genre. This is a refreshing thing to hear a band say, since those that seem to dwell on such a mission end up repeating everything that has already happened anyway. Play> works toward this mission with an album that, on first listen, gives the feel of two EPs taped together, but then comes forward as a true continuity effort once you know what you’re listening for.
When the album kicks off, notice is due to the interesting vocal styling of Tris Lass. Deep and thorough, his voice has the appeal of, and seems a throw-back to, the way things sounded in the early to mid 90s. Don’t take this to mean that the album showed up a decade and a half late – on the contrary, songs like “Quiet Desperation” keep with contemporary styles, giving pounding riffs and a vocal performance that has emotion where it needs it, albeit a little rough at times during the following tracks.
“Dutchman” represents a line drawn in the disc, keeping in the fast rock style of the previous tracks up and through the stage announcements at the end of the song. The moment it ends, the volume turns down and the distortion pedal disappears. “Conflicted” begins such a different movement in the band’s style, that if you didn’t find what you liked in the first twenty minutes, there might be hope in Play> for you still. Trading out quick chord strumming for a more melodic performance with light key tapping, you begin to see that there are other ways that the vocals of Lass can be delivered, and clearly a different set of talents that the other members of the band embrace. “Moment” continues this step-back style, using a long build-up to apologize for earlier rushes and lacking instrumentation, then bringing in the best vocal performance on the record.
“Window” brings the second half of the album back up to speed, as does the follow through of “Play,” but it is “Outta the Rain” that gives the album a solid closing, wrapping up earlier themes with a few more “woo ooh oohs.” Sure, there’s one more track, but it has no connection to the rest of the album, so it really serves as a detractor, lacking the trademark voice that has simply made the rest of the album.
All in all, Play> gives a solid debut, and accomplishes their mission. While the sound and lyrics are not exactly groundbreaking, these Oregonians set out to deliver a rock album, and that is exactly what has been done. Also, you have to admit, that whole thing with the inequality sign as part of the band name is pretty clever.