May 27, 2010 Leave a comment
Rather than talk about the band this time, I’ll actually say something about the album. For those who missed my earlier post, Xander’s band, The Tension, has released their first album on the Sling Slang label, entitled The Rest Can Wait. It’s available at CDBaby online, as well as iTunes, Amazon’s MP3 Marketplace, and others.
First, though, let me answer the teaser from my last post. The original name for the band was …
… wait for it …
Average Score. While the MySpace page based on that name is now gone, I’m sure Xander has forgotten that the Facebook page is still there.
When the boys told me the name, I thought it was a riot. After all, if there’s one defining characteristic about Xander, it’s that he’s normal (other than his musical ability, of course :).
The name didn’t last long. I don’t think they played more than two or three gigs under that name before changing it to The Tension.
On the album itself, let’s start with the first two songs, Intro and Break the Cycle, which really belong together.
The Intro, along with The Sky Behind the Treeline and Outro, were all the last songs to be recorded. On CDBaby we managed to reduce the prices for those songs by half, but on Amazon and iTunes it’s hard to make any adjustments without incurring serious delays.
The Intro is only 31 seconds long, and it’s all piano that merges into the first song. One day shortly before the last recording session, Xander sat down at the piano at home and just started playing chords. I’m always amazed when he does that. He’s had a fair number of guitar lessons and drum lessons, but only about two piano lessons. I don’t know where he got the ability to make up sequences of piano chords that sound good.
The chords sounded good, but were obviously just the beginning of something. Instead of turning them into a song by itself, though, he decided to add them to the beginning of the album. On the CD it blends smoothly into Break the Cycle, but the electronic versions add a split second gap as the player switches from one song to the next.
We scheduled the last recording session to fix up any remaining issues. I didn’t know the boys were going to add all three of the instrumental tracks that day as well. For the record, The Sky Behind the Treeline is a combination of Xander on piano and Dan on guitar, and the Outro was written and played by Ben (yes, the drummer). All three merge into the adjacent songs — Intro into Break the Cycle, The Sky Behind the Treeline into Accidents Happen, and Take Me Home into the Outro.
Ironically, the bridge between the Intro and Break the Cycle works best if you have the music turned up loud. Break the Cycle begins with just the bass line, and if you can’t hear and/or feel all the harmonics, it feels like the harmony isn’t quite right. Turn it up, though, and everything is in place nicely.
Break the Cycle was actually the first song to be recorded for the album, and remains one of the most popular. It’s a typical song by The Tension in that it features significant contributions by all four band members, it has a long build-up before the first lyrics, and it introduces multiple themes as it goes along.
After starting with just bass, then drum, and then guitar, the first real theme is introduced at 0:38 seconds. After repeating a couple of times, the vocals start at 0:57 seconds. As someone who grew up in the 70’s and was always frustrated by the way disc jockeys (yes, they called them disc jockeys back then — disks were these giant black vinyl things that scratched easily, which was always considered bad until rappers made it into a feature rather than a bug in the mid-90’s) had this awful habit of talking at the beginning of a song until the singing started. Ginger tells me the reason was to keep people from recording the songs and playing them separately on cassette players, but I’m not sure. I only know I don’t like it, and when the DJ’s on the 70’s station on Sirius satellite radio still do it, I get very annoyed with them. Oh well.
People in my generation are surprised when it takes nearly a minute to get to the first vocal line, but that’s definitely a part of The Tension’s style, as you’ll see on several of the songs on the album.
The first chorus comes at about 1:18 seconds in and is typically ambiguous but interesting. Then we return to another verse and another chorus, and you’d be forgiven for thinking we’re listening to a typical ABA structured example of popular music. Things change at 2:24, though, when we start a guitar part that introduces a rising four-chord transition at 2:44 and switches to a completely new theme at 3:00. Lots of great bass work comes in at that point, carrying the melody.
A few drum fills at 3:45 and another chord transition at 4:00 bring us back to the first chorus, but much more sedate this time. At 4:50 the chorus is repeated back in the original style, and finally at 5:27 the original theme re-emerges to tie everything together again.
It’s a great song, and shows a depth and sophistication that feels way beyond their years, especially if you saw the goofballs in the studio during production. When they’re actually working on adding tracks, they’re friendly and (mostly) supportive of each other, and taking things seriously. As soon as the track is recorded, they’re back to bouncing off the walls and throwing things at each other.
Break the Cycle is a great song, and the Intro is an excellent segue into it. I hope you like it as well. Next time I’ll address the next two songs on the album, Crooked Mind and In My Head.