Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Benzene Ring - Breathing Water in a Dream CD Review

To start off, when reading the bio of The Benzene Ring, I stumbled across this little tidbit of “information”:

”The Benzene Ring play big Smashing Pumpkins guitar rock, dreamy Danny Elfman fantasies, prog rock largesse à la Tool and Yes, and rich emotional Sunny Day Real Estate textures.”

Now you have to admit, by proclaiming the above, The Benzene Ring set the bar pretty damn high for themselves. Has there really been a band in all of the existence of music to blend each of those items together? And even if there were such a band, would the music said band created have been done well? I’m thinking the odds are pretty much against it, but that doesn’t mean The Benzene Ring won’t try to be that band, however.

After reading the above, I checked out the song titles on the album. From the looks of the first couple of tracks (“You and Me in the Absence of Predators” and “An Old Man Dies and Finds Himself in Hell”) and their respective lengths (7:22 and 5:59), it was looking like the pretentiousness potential on this album was quite high. Trying to push all of these preconceived notions aside, however, Breathing Water in a Dream was given my full attention… and oddly it was pretty decent for a pretentious indie rock affair.

For the most part this album is primarily an indie rock effort, but there are many other small flourishes that venture into some prog rock and post-rock territory. And to clear things up about the band’s claims to their sound above, you are not going to hear much of anything that sounds similar to The Smashing Pumpkins or Tool. There are some definite Yes and Sunny Day Real Estate moments, though, with most of the Sunny Day Real Estate moments occurring in short bursts. The Benzene Ring have a few moments on the album that fall into the emo realm the aforementioned band was so famous for.

The fuller, longer, flowing compositions on this album are where this band truly shines. The first two tracks are a wonderful one-two opening punch of mature (at times post-rock influenced) instrumentation, progressive songwriting, and artistic expression. The songs may meander just a tad bit too long, but it doesn’t detract from the overall impact of the songs. “Help is on the Way” is another strong track and is also the longest of the album. It feels very similar in tone to later The Mayan Factor songs with a bit of a more upbeat tone, at least for the first half of the song. The track takes a drastic shift in the second half, morphing into a classic rock and Rush inspired piece. The transition was a little abrupt, but still was workable.

What ultimately detracts from this album are the short snippets of songs found throughout the effort that masquerade as full compositions. “Treasure in the Straw” and “Shuffling the Deck” are two tracks that amount to nothing more than noise on each side of the interestingly put together “Magical Road”, which feels like something off of an early Sleepytime Gorilla Museum album. In total, five of the eleven songs on the album fall into this “snippet” category and disrupt much of the flow that the longer compositions create.

Given some more focus, possibly a little better production, and some streamlining, The Benzene Ring will have things flowing perfectly. As it is now, they are a flawed band filled with a ton of potential that needs some guidance and molding in order to reach the next level.

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