Alexander and The Grapes’ ‘Hemispheres’
“There are some powerful moments within these songs as the Grapes masterfully ebb and tide musically to create and release tension. . .” -CBCameron Barham
out of 10
Alexander and the Grapes
June 26, 2012
New Granada Records
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”
Comparison is a double-edged sword that can cut one of two ways: compliment or accusation of un-originality. In the case of Alexander and the Grapes’ Hemispheres, it is a compliment that they be compared to the best of Pedro the Lion and Dave Bazan’s solo work. There are moments that clearly pay homage to Bazan’s work (“Conscience” and “East Coast”), however, to be fair to Alexander Charos and his bandmates, this record is more diverse in sound and not nearly as unresolved (“Seeds” though “Salesman” and “Jordan” approach Bazan’s wicked bite).
According to the frontman, Alexander Charos, these songs delve into the choosing of paths in a variety of circumstances in life that are not necessarily clear cut and easy leaving one with a sense that either choice produces different outcomes and uncertainty concerning the path not taken. This is commiserate with the life stage of 20-somethings particularly (though other stages bring a host of similar questions), thus they are singing from the ground of their own experience which is clearly displayed in the content of the songs. The Florida-based Grapes have put together a solid album in Hemispheres for which J. Mendicino deserves mention for his excellent production work.
The album opens with “Another Year” and “Conscience”, both brilliant indie-rock tracks that display musical dynamic and swagger. The last verse of “Conscience” sums up well the tension of the proverbial beckoning of Lady Wisdom to the those who lack caution and are hell-bent to do what they wish: “Conscience says that its wrong, but I don’t want to believe her, Tell her if she doesn’t stop, if she doesn’t stop then I’m gonna leave her, She says, “I feel the same, I’m tired of giving out warnings, If you want to make your mistakes, make your mistakes but please don’t call me.”
The pace slows a bit for “Conversation,” “East Coast,” “Where I Go,” “Chuck Stewart Has a Dream,” and “Ocean,” which finds Charos being reflective on a variety of issues like faith, life, direction, and love. There are some powerful moments within these songs as the Grapes masterfully ebb and tide musically to create and release tension, though the album does drag a bit through this section.
The heaviest weight and commentary comes with “Salesman” and “Jordan”. The indie-rock swagger returns as Charos declares over driving chords and beats: “Satan is a salesman, knockin at my door / Selling the gospel of the nation, salvation you can’t afford / It’s not even in disguise, you don’t have to tell me lies / Complacency is fuel to the fire, and I can’t kick my evil desire.” “Jordan” darkly introspects over distorted minor piano chords: “On the third day I rose again to break the silence / Is there a third way to live among the violent? / Thought I heard that rolling stone / Resurrection from the ‘lone, And I’m beneath the Jordan river busy dying.” Both highlight the action-less meanderings of a generation lost in vicarious anti-experience.
After “Can’t Waste Too Much Time” and “Swan Song,” the album resolves with the beautifully executed “Seeds” which features a diversity of sounds held together by pedal steel guitar and driving toms. It features the brilliant verse couplet: “If you don’t care to join, the rocks will sing and dance about / You can always flip a coin, to pick what you praise or doubt / But sometimes, sometimes you praise what you doubt / And my child if you’re afraid, then crush it as soon as it sprouts / Pull the roots out of the clay, if you think you can live without / Knowing what it was all about.” The way forward is not always clear, but a path must be chosen in faith and hope despite.-Cameron Barham, August 11, 2012