March 15, 2012

Review: RPWL-Beyond Man And Time

Beyond Man And Time, RPWL’s fifth studio release (their tenth overall), shows great potential from the beginning. It’s funky and psychedelic, simultaneously evoking elements of Pink Floyd and Genesis. RPWL formed in 1997 as a Pink Floyd cover band, so that should tell you something about their style and tastes. The album’s title track shows that in spite of over a decade of writing and playing their own music, the foundation of their sound is still heavily influenced by Floyd. 

After a brief introduction (“Transformed”), they cut right to the chase with “We Are What We Are.” Right away, I can tell that I’m going to have issues with these lyrics, as they waffle between cliché and nonsensical. This song is just the tip of the iceberg. It gets borderline insufferable further down the line with “Unchain the Earth” and “The Wise In The Desert” (at least “We Are What We Are” has some cool synth textures and bass rhythms to distract the listener away from the lyrics).

As we progress, “Unchain the Earth” has the kind of sound that would have brought down stadiums twenty-five years ago, but as it stands today the track itself is only so-so. It has one of the most promising intros but it loses it for me around the 1:25 mark. It would be more enjoyable if I could figure out what he’s trying to say. (“Unchain the earth/we don’t need the sun anymore…” What the hell does that mean?) Maybe something’s lost in translation here. Maybe, English not being their native tongue (presumably, as they are German), maybe the words were chosen more for how they sounded and less for what they meant, and I would be wrong to search for meaning where there’s none. Giving RPWL the benefit of the doubt, I choose to believe this; for if there’s one thing I cannot abide, it’s artificial depth. 

“The Ugliest Man in the World” may be the best song on the album; it’s certainly got the best name. It’s in some kind of weird, split time signature, or like 13/8 or something. That odd number, the little hiccup at the end of the groove, makes the whole track for me. If it takes a little more than odd timing to be enticing, let me lay it out for you: when he sings the softer parts I’m forced to recall The Shins. (I say forced like it’s a bad thing, which it usually is, but in this case I don’t mind it so much because it’s reminiscent of The Shins I like. On a personal note, my dislike for the shins stems only from my hatred for the overuse of/over emphasis on music in movies, and Garden State sucked…).“The Fisherman” is another gem. Seems a little odd to me though that the band would make the decision to include a 16 minute track second to last, and close with a comparatively short, four-minute number.

About half the songs are decent, and the musicianship isn’t poor, but it just doesn’t sound very inspired. What Beyond Man And Time lacks is personality, something to give it that defining RPWL sound (if there is such a thing). I can’t tell what they’ve got that a thousand other bands don’t already have. Beyond Man And Time may be entertaining, but it lacks any characteristics which might give it staying power.

3/5 Stars

Key Tracks: The Ugliest Man In The World, The Fisherman, The Road of Creation

Drew Vreeland

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