Three Against Four
The Event Newsweekly
Accolades for "Hey Sparkle Eyes" from John Kimbrough, formerly of WALT MINK
"It was with grim resignation that I threw the T.A.F. record into my player. Not that I wasn't hopeful mind you, it's just that I'd become jaded by years of bad rock.
Imagine my surprise when what came pouring out of the speakers was awesome, imaginative music! I stood speechless in my kitchen. Holy fuck! These guys rock! The next forty-five minutes were spent standing in front of my boombox trying to make sense of the fact that I had just stumbled upon a great new rock record, and that the band thanked me in the liner notes! Like I said- WOW!
Also, it made me depressed that I no longer play in a band. It made me want to pick up my guitar and go kick ass... it appears that now you have inspired me...thanks for making my week. Cheers- J.
P.S. "Heartthrob" kicks total ass.
THREE AGAINST FOUR are Brandon Patton (bass), Anand (guitar) and Jay Skowronek (drums). Patton and Nayak met in college, playing in various bands together. After graduation, Nayak helped Patton put together a solo album, Nocturnal, after which they decided to form their own band. The result is Three Against Four. During 1998, they played gigs with a variety of drummers all over Western Massachusetts. Some Of Us Are Here, recorded in the Spring of 1998, is their debut album. Shortly after, Jay Skowronek joined the band, completing the current line up.
I saw the band at a benefit concert, Blank Fest, in Nyack, NY. (See review in this issue.) Though the sound equipment was lacking, the band impressed me with its energy and unique sound. I always worry about taking an album from a band at a show like this, because often the quality I hear on stage doesn't translate well on a band's self-produced album. Not so with THREE AGAINST FOUR. There's a quiet energy underpinning all of their songs, even the louder ones, and it's carried through in their thoughtful lyrics. Most impressive is that they have a sound all their own, which is unusual to find in such a young band.
The album opens with drum beats leading into the clashing guitar and bass of "Grace." It's a racing guitar that carries the song along, with the vocals hanging over the instrumental. The song has more changes than many bands put on their whole albums, leaving a feeling of controlled unbalance and disarray. This song is about an unexpected death. Funky bass and guitar help to set the mood on "Bonedragger." It starts off soft, with whispered vocals, slowly rising to a crescendo. Deep backing vocals add a sense of foreboding to the song. "I'm cold sweatin' in my bed tonight/ I've got a feeling in my mind's eye/ I try to keep my eyes closed/ Everywhere I go you know/ Cuz I'm haunted by a vision/ Of a man with a mission/ Lurking in the shadows/ Mr. Bonedragger."Awesome!
"Midnight Ramblings" has fast acoustic pickings with a funky bass beat, while the lyrics hit a deep chord. "They're talking big ideas/ And pretty soon I just want to go/ Did you know how you were fooled/ When they told you you were schooled?/ Did you care about the rules/ Or did you just throw it all away?" One of my favorite songs is "Bottle." It starts off softly, with a deep playful guitar line and vocals. As the song progresses, it changes, gaining a manic quality as the tranquility of a good relationship turns bad. The lyrics are incredible - beyond what I find on most of the albums I review. "Uncork this bottle/ Little genie/ Grant me wishes to spare/ Then you must leave me/ Watch it vanish to air/ Like a faerie/ Our bed was once our palace/ Now it's our cemetary."
Soft, jazz influenced guitar pulls the listener into the complexity of "Please." Harmony between lead and backing vocals is strong, but sometimes the lead seems a little flat. It only feeds into the miasma the song describes. "When I woke up today/ I tried to go the other way/ I tried. . ." Punk and Speed Metal appropriately influence "Battering Ram." It's loud and obnoxious, with a screaming guitar solo, also featuring a nice hanging lyric line. "Put up your defenses I don't care/ Cuz I believe one day you'll come around/ Cuz what goes up must come. . ."
Front Room surprises at every turn, with its blend of jazz styled lead and backing vocals mixed with rap. The song lulls the listener into a sense of security until the backing vocals come in. Then it slides from jazz into rap, seemingly without effort. The rap has its own separate title, The Bomb. The line that makes its presence most felt here is I got a style all my own. They sure do. No less impressive is Statement, with its heavy guitar opening and supporting funky bass line. Vocals are intentionally mechanical with both vocalists clashing together. "I do not trust the word love/ It produces self hypnosis/ And a strong impression/ That to love is simple. . . "If you think that's a strong statement, you have to hear the rest. It only gets better as the song draws you into its spell.
"Trainsongs" soft opening guitar work is lovely, winding around, pulling me in. Just when I thought the song couldn't get better, the refrain brings it to a whole other level. And I feel this moment slip away/ And I wait for words/ But nothing comes my way/ And you see and you look at me/ You look at me that way. . . Backing vocals on the final refrain are particularly good. Untwined is probably my least favorite of the songs. Its soft and weighty with melancholy, but the lyrics hold up well.
Slight Return is a short revisit to The Bomb. It fades in and out, making a transition between Untwined and Without Shame. The complex acoustic guitar line on Without Shame leads to a soft vocal, and backing vocals begin to sound like Crosby, Stills and Nash in some places. But, this is THREE AGAINST FOUR. Don't expect them to lose their identity just because they borrowed one small element. The harmony feeds into some fast funk, and the final soft passage, spiraling out with acoustic guitars alone.
I don't believe that THREE AGAINST FOUR will remain unsigned for very
long. The potential of this self-produced album is overwhelming. I find
I like the album more with each successive listen. The songs reveal
nuances unheard each time, making it something I look forward to putting
in my CD player. I wanted to take a break at some point while writing
the review, but I couldn't stop. I think that's the best compliment I
could pay them, because I always take breaks. If you're into intelligent
alternative music, buy it.