Album Review :
The Juliana Theory "A Small Noise"

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Artist: The Juliana Theory
Album: A Small Noise
Label: Tooth & Nail Records
Review by: Eric

1. Duane Joseph
2. For Evangeline
3. August In Bethany
4. Constellation
5. The Closest Thing
6. If I Told You This Was Killing Me, Would You Stop?
7. Into The Dark
8. To The Tune Of 5,000 Screaming Children
9. Is Patience Still Waiting
10. We’re At The Top Of The World
11. You Always Say Goodnight, Goodnight
12. This Is The End Of Your Life
13. Breathing By Wires

This is going to make some of you feel very old, but The Juliana Theory was before my time. I knew the name and had that one cool song on that sampler, but in their era I was still listening to Relient K, MxPx, and Five Iron Frenzy. I do know however, that lead vocalist Brett Detar used to play guitar for Zao, which is what gave The Juliana Theory their original foot in the door with Tooth & Nail in 1999. Two poorly promoted records and an EP later, their contract was bought by Epic Records and Love was released in 2003. Later that year, Tooth & Nail released their live album, and after much complication with Epic, The Juliana Theory eventually landed on Abacus Recordings for their final release, Deadbeat Sweetheart, in 2005. They were again unsatisfied with their label conditions in early 2006 and decided it was time to end the band. Tooth & Nail saw the opportunity, and threw together A Small Noise, a “greatest hits” type album for this monumental band.

This collection begins with the pops of a vinyl record (which are only noticeable if the volume is turned way up) and a pseudo lo-fi intro to the song “Duane Joseph.” This is a song about growing up with a best friend and being boys, but eventually going separate ways. The false lo-fi vocal effects are still semi present throughout the entire song and leave me wishing it was a cleaner recording, but all in all it is a great song. “For Evangeline” is a song about God knows what, that I have grown to skip due to too much repetition lyrically. Next comes “August in Bethany,” which I must say is one of the best written sad songs I’ve ever heard. I’ve never even gone through a break up, and I still feel like crying every time this track plays. Yeah, it’s that good. “Constellation” is another break up song, but not quite as amazing. Still, there are cool lines such as “words that can’t be spoken stream down my face.” Things are mellowed out for “The Closest Thing,” which speaks of a girl who is the “closest thing to perfect, but the farthest thing from me.” This song is about that girl you don’t really know, but would love a chance to get to know. The pace is next brought back up for what is one of the top ten serious songs to sing along to. “If I Told You This Was Killing Me, Would You Stop?” is actually not a song about a girl, as the title and previous songs might lead you to believe. This fast-paced, emotion-filled song talks about a backstabbing friend who should learn to “watch your mouth. Hold your tongue. Some things are better left unsaid.” Maybe this is a bad representation, but this is really the best song The Juliana Theory ever recorded for any record company. With the passionate “Into the Dark,” Brett Detar offers help to a friend with the words, “In your eyes I see a darkness that torments you and in your head where it dwells. I’d give you my hand if you’d reach out and grab it. Let’s walk away from this hell.” The clever and upbeat “To the Tune of 5,000 Screaming Children” tells critics that The Juliana Theory is going to ignore them and keep going strong. “Is Patience Still Waiting?” says “Oh God I still believe. Is patience still waiting? Will I wait on my knees?” It may be a friend coming to Christ, but overall what he’s waiting for is a little unclear. Lightening the mood from all this heartache, “We’re at the Top of the World” is a sugary pop song about the euphoria brought by time spent with that special girl, with the very well executed chorus of “Sha la la la. Sha la la la la la la.” Okay, that’s enough of that lighter mood; let’s bring in a piano, acoustic guitar, and some ambient electronic drumming on the nine and a half minute “You Always Say Goodnight, Goodnight,” which eventually crescendos into a choir of sorts and lots of cool guitar work (even a little bit of dual guitars towards the end!) and passionate vocals. This is the most artistic song on the record musically, and definitely deserves to be on here. “This Is the End of Your Life” is a strong and passionate rock and roll tune about everything changing in a split second and having to deal with it. This compilation closes on the oddly upbeat “Breathing by Wires,” which sings of someone who has become addicted to the screen (computer or television is unsaid). This may sound cheesey, but it is kind of a cool song, despite the opening chords sounding like Switchfoot’s “Dare You to Move.”

A Small Noise starts first with five songs from Understand This Is a Dream (March 1999), then six songs from Emotion Is Dead (August 2000), and closes on two songs from the Music from Another Room EP (October 2001). This is a good span of songs for more recent fans of The Juliana Theory, such as myself, but if you’ve been with them since back then, you probably already own all of these songs or at least enough of them to make purchasing a full album rather than this collection more worthwhile. I wish they would have thrown some of those live songs or some b-sides on here just for fun, but this is not the case. The Juliana Theory did a great job writing all of these songs and a reasonably good job choosing them for this disc, but long term fans will certainly feel it could have used a lot more. Even if it does have rad cover art.

For original song recordings: 8/10
For this compilation job: 6/10

The Juliana Theory’s Official Site

Oh, and you can totally download five of these songs from their purevolume. Bad planning maybe?