steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

review
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info opinion

Contrived

"blank, blank, blank" CD

Hand-Drawn Dracula

Genre: indie rock, experimental rock

Michigan, USA

Jan 2009

Hey look, it's yet another supergroup born out of the ever-incestuous Canadian indie scene. This one features members of critically-acclaimed bands Holy Fuck and Wintersleep, and if blank, blank, blank is any indication, it's about as orthodox an act as you could ask for in 2008. Mostly bleak? Check. Often indistinct? Check. Complex dance-prog-whatever rhythms with lots of hi-hats? Oh yeah. Vocals usually low in the mix, always vulnerable or bitter or both? Obviously. It's apparent that Contrived, like most bands who follow this formula, are using Radiohead (sigh) as a model. Also like most bands who follow the formula, when they get really despondent, they're remarkably dull - while their musical genius is considerable, it isn't quite at the Radioheadian level of complexity it needs to be at for their particularly arid tracks ("Eavesdropping") to be really rewarding.

Fortunately, there's also a lot to love about this ambitious album. On most of their songs, once Contrived are done introspecting, they transition into accelerating balls-out rock breakdowns ("Angels Rioting Against the Nothing") that approach heights of musical tension capable of bringing down any house live. And they really hit their stride on the last three tracks, which are almost upbeat enough to offset or at least help contextualize the depressingness of the first five. There's even a kind of sheepishness that permeates the downers on this album, which is kind of unique and refreshing. There are two keepers: "Celebrate," which says grace in these uncertain economic and environmental times over jangly(!) guitars and vocal harmonies reminiscent of early Sloan, and especially the finale "Keepsake," a propulsive statement on secrets and game theory. Cheers to Contrived for deviating from their usual MO with blank, blank, blank I'm looking forward to seeing where they go from here. It's anyone's guess.

contrived's myspace

81%

Rhett Alexander

[Vitals: 8 tracks, distributed by the label, released Nov 11, 2008]