Album: Slaves EP
Release Date: 06/09/12
Reviewer: Lee Brown
- To Your Knees
- Face Like Braile
- I Am the A
- Why’d You Change
- The Drive
First of all, the irony is not lost on me that in the same week I have done reviews for two bands with Rest in their name (check out my review for Come & Rest, here). I should also point out that this review is very late in terms of when it was written versus when the album was originally released. As a site that covers both more “mainstream” artists and lesser known independent artists, that happens. Sometimes we are introduced to a band a while after they release an album, but still want to get word out about them and support the indie scene. In this case, I was introduced to Rest. by Matt Baird (Spoken) during our recent interview. Rest. opened for Spoken on their Illusion album release tour.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into the review. Rest. is a very intentional band that seems to do everything with a distinctive purpose, which is often to challenge the norm. Even their name (the period is there on purpose) is subversive in the right way. Placing the period into the band’s name turns it from a “typical” band name into a statement. Periods end things. They turn thoughts into sentences, even expressions. They make you take a breath between words. In that same manner, Rest., as a name, makes you stop and ponder the idea of rest. This use of the period also brings fond memories for me, taking my mind to another band that used a period in their name, .rod laver (one of my favorite lost but not forgotten bands).
This intentionality is also very apparent in their lyrics. While many bands attempt to write songs in a way that gets their message across in a veiled manner, Rest. makes their point by flipping the lyrics on their heads. For example, in the song “To Your Knees,” the lyrics say “you’ll receive all you need, just keep gnashing your teeth,” and “you succeed always sowing what you reap.” By saying “sowing what you reap,” rather than the typical “reaping what you sow,” the band uses wordplay to defy expectations. Similarly, the concept “Gnashing your teeth” is most often used in the Biblical imagery of hell. Here, it is associated with the effort to get what you want. In both cases, the lyrics are intentionally iconoclastic.
Such examples are not isolated, either. The entire EP is teeming with skillful writing that seems wrought with just a slight dose of subversion from start to finish. As could be expected, this also bleeds into the sound of the album itself. Each note seems to be carefully chosen and crafted to create a moment with a specific sound. Judging by the fact that at least one band member is also a professional graphics artist and web designer, this should not come as a surprise. I would say the only exception to this is the intro to “To Your Knees,” which starts with a very “band jamming to start a song” moment. Still, even that had to be intentionally chosen as the opener.
Rest. brings a soulful alternative rock experience that shares some slight commonality with bands like Tallhart and Carrolhood. To some degree, comparisons to some of The GooGoo Dolls works would not be far off (though not entirely close). Still, Rest. has their own unique sound that perfectly reflects their heartfelt Southern (they’re from Georgia) sensibilities. In many ways, I agree with Jeff Hill of Machinist, who stated that “This band is the face of the future for spirit filled rock-n-roll in the southeast.”
The Slaves EP begins with “To Your Knees,” which is a soulful alt. rock experience with the aforementioned switches in lyrical expectations. The exact message of the song is difficult to decipher. There are many Biblical allusions found and the idea “to your knees” seems like a call to bow before Christ. However, the clincher of the lyrics is that “the ocean brings you to your knees.” “The ocean” could be a metaphor for the vastness of life, the weight of our mistakes, or any number of things. In the end, the song is about returning to where you came from. If the speaker is given the God perspective, then the song becomes something of a prodigal son tale. In terms of intentionality, this would make sense with the title of the album being Slaves.
“Face Like Braille” brings a little slower pace with some vocal warbling that has a slight “Train” feel at times. Once again, the title of the song proves to give a visceral feel. One could imagine feeling someone’s face and being able to read their heart/emotions/intentions as if it were braille. As before, the exact message of the song is difficult to nail down or put into a nice, neat box. The song includes elements of questioning the American dream, love raining down and opening our eyes, and being predictable to the point of being able to (of course) read people like braille. This song also includes a nice subtle moment of screaming mixed into the background. A couple of these pop up on the album, and they are always mixed effectively into the songs.
“I am the A” takes a little more jazzed up pace and has almost blues riffed vocals. The title, once again, becomes a moment of intentionality as “the A” is left undefined. The song seems to present the God-perspective at various points, which would imply that the “A” is for “Alpha,” as in “Alpha and Omega…” The line, “who am I to say… I am… I am your Maker,” seems to clinch this thought. In this regard, the song becomes about human beings doubting an all knowing God, and God challenging us back as He did Job in the Bible. Seen through this lens, the song mirrors some of the give and take between God and Job, with God pointing to who He is as an answer to Job’s questions.
“Why’d You Change” is the track where I would point to a GooGoo Dolls influence. The overall sound is very in line with elements of the album that produced “Black Balloon.” Continuing the conversation between man and God that interplays throughout the album, “Why’d You Change” opens questioningly and tentatively about a God who never changes juxtaposed to the changing passions of man. Just as this dichotomy is highlighted, the sound of the song itself works dichotomously between slightly more aggressive moments and “restfully” somber moments. Though each song on the album is solid, this is certainly one I would point people to as a sample of what the band has to offer.
The EP closes with “The Drive.” “The Drive” is an upbeat song that begins with some almost Alanis Morrisette flavored guitar work before cleanly breaking into the chorus. The lyrics, “I know there’s something controlling you, there’s something controlling me,” brings the imagery of the album title back to the focus. It also helps to close the overall theme of the album that intertwines from the title into each track.
If you follow my reviews on EP’s, one of my complaints is that the small number of tracks leaves no room to develop a fully orbed theme or message that winds through and comes to completion. Rest. has avoided this trope completely with Slaves, which is welcomed. This is not an introductory experience meant to lead you into something “more” and “later,” but a full experience that is meant to be digested and create a hunger for more. Which is exactly the impression I left the album with. I’m excited for more skillful intentionality from a stand-out band.
Overall: Rest. bring a carefully plotted out message via skillfully worked through alternative rock. Though the album is EP length in nature, the experience is fully worked out across five well written songs. Though they don’t match up in musical styling, I get an overall feel from the craftsmanship on this work of bands like Blindside, and that is a very high honor, indeed. Slaves EP brings a welcomed experience that must be delved into several times to see all the layers and depth the band offers up.
RIYL: Tallhart, Carollhood, (to some degree) GooGoo Dolls