Artist: The Classic Crime
Label: Tooth & Nail
Release Date: April 6, 2010
Review by: Michael Mayer III
- A Perfect Voice
- Cheap Shots
- Solar Powered Life
- Four Chords
- The Happy Nihilist
- My Name
- Everything and Nothing
- The Count
- Different Now
- Broken Mess
Typically, the third full-length album in a band’s career is a pivotal one. That mostly has to do with the dreaded term ‘sophomore slump’ and all its implications but with The Classic Crime we don’t have to worry about that. Instead, they have to find some way to follow up the excellent The Silver Cord. That brings us to Vagabonds, a catchy album in its own right but a stylistically different one from its predecessor. Whereas The Silver Cord was a collection of powerful songs based around a loose concept, this one seems destined to be played in arenas with anthemic rock choruses at every turn. Even the ballads are upbeat and engaging. Make no mistake about it, Vagabonds is an album meant to be played live in front of an energetic crowd.
In the first song, ‘A Perfect Voice’, you will hear just what I mean. It’s a simple two-chord song with an upbeat chorus and a flurry of ‘ooh oh ooh oh’s making it impossible to not want to join in. You may as well get used to those ooh oh’s too because they are peppered all over the album with solid backing vocal harmonies like they’ve never had before. Then you have the classic rock inspired ‘Solar Powered Life’ that features an interesting exchange between the vocalist and a response from the guitar with a southern rock vibe. It definitely reminds me of something Led Zeppelin did on occasion. Then at the bridge everything slows down and the cow bell comes in clearly. Unfortunately the song is over before it begins, its one true fault, but it’s a blast to listen to.
Matt truly has a unique voice and he has always had a knack for finding the perfect vocal hook in choruses or addictive styles to sing with and they are most apparent in ‘Vagabonds’ and ‘The Happy Nihilist’. The former, of which, he does a fantastic job of matching the creative guitar chords and he shows off his range in the chorus. It should also be said that the drumming by Paul is spot on for the anthemic songs and often he adds little touches to give a track another unique sound. Speaking of catchy, nothing on this album is more infectious than the way Matt sings the verses in ‘The Happy Nihilist’. It instantly jumps out at you as he deftly carries the whole song at the beginning with minimal sounds from the other instruments to back him up. Then there is a perfect buildup to the end where Matt just unleashes the lyrics rapidly and tops it off with some light screaming. The start and stop drum beat also makes me feel this would be an awesome song timed to strobe lights.
The band has been on record in saying that they don’t like being cornered as a Christian band and that’s reflected in the lyrics. You will rarely hear any direct references to God but if you listen closely you’ll find all sorts of clues to their beliefs. Sometimes those subtle moments you notice make the song all the more enjoyable though. Take the mammoth ballad ‘My Name’, for instance, where Matt passionately sings in the first verse:
“I have seen my own gravestone and worshipped the golden statue
I have made my bear in the lion’s den and walked in dead man’s shoes.”
Then in the chorus, amidst moving string arrangements and strong backing vocals, he triumphantly declares:
“I will walk through the fire/I will not be afraid.
They can take everything that I have/they can’t give me my name.
It’s all brilliantly pieced together and might just be their best ballad yet. After that the next few songs are hit and miss. ‘The Count’ is another one of my favorites though, thanks to the fact it sounds more in line with The Silver Cord than anything else. It’s easily the most complex song on the album with multiple time signatures and a larger-than-life chorus that you can’t help but fall in love with. Of all the songs on Vagabonds this is the one I’d want to hear live the most. So much is going on that it’s basically like an aural circus. It is also perfectly placed in the tracklist among simpler songs.
Overall: So far Vagabonds is the best anthemic rock release of the year and hopefully it’s one that launches their career further ahead. However, for those looking for more of the same style as The Silver Cord they may be a bit disappointed. This really isn’t so much of a progression as it is a revamping of their sound. That being said, it seems like The Classic Crime are having more fun than ever and there’s no doubt their live shows will be even more frantic than before. The lasting appeal of this album will be lacking with little diversity in the tracks and the overall sound though. While it may be a fun spin, it won’t be something that will leave an impression outside of the standout tracks.
Gems of this album are: ‘The Happy Nihilist’, ‘The Count’, ‘Solar Powered Life’, ‘Vagabonds’, ‘My Name’