When people ask me why I love music so much I always tell them that it’s because good music is like a journey. This is usually the part where the other person blankly stares at me. But, I truly believe it. A good song or a good album can take you to a whole new world, like a book or a movie, with a beginning, a climax, and an eventual end.
One Less Reason tells a fantastic story in their new album A Blueprint for Writhing. The band, led by Cris Brown, opens up to the listener with passionate lyrics and passionate music. Each song serves as a page, if you will, of a specific chapter that comes to a close as the album strikes its last note. Individually, each song is filled with raw emotion. Together, all six songs create part of the band’s autobiography. There is no holding back on this album; Cris Brown leaves his heart on the record, both in his lyrics and in his voice. I have never met the man, but after listening to A Blueprint for Writhing I feel like I already know him better than I know most people in my life. There is no hiding behind any facades here, everything is real. Like the band says on their Facebook page “there’s a memory behind every riff, chorus, bass groove, and guitar solo.”
Its an art that the band has been perfecting over the course of four prior albums; everydaylife (an album which reached “gold” sales status last year), Getting Back Your Self Esteem, A Lifetime Burning, and Faces and Four Letter Words. The release of “Faces and Four Letter Words” was so successful that it debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Heatseeker’s Chart. The success led them to signing with Arsenic Records. Under the Arsenic banner the band released an album of remixes and remastered versions of prior songs, produced by 3 Doors Down’s Chris Henderson. The band left Arsenic Records and is back to the do-it-yourself way on A Blueprint for Writhing.
Before playing A Blueprint for Writhing the first time I will admit I was a little nervous. For a band that experienced the success One Less Reason did with Faces and Four Letter Words, to fall back to doing it yourself raised some flags. Had they written themselves dry? Had they watched their chance pass them by? What could this album possibly sound like after the eventful last couple of years?
Luckily, for me at least, those fears and doubts were completely erased within the first minute of listening. “All Beauty Fades,” my personal favorite track on the album, opens with a somber Brown reflecting on his decision to leave someone. It is not just Brown’s voice that sets the tone though, the band masterfully decides to only back Brown with a gentle piano for most of this opening monologue. There’s a brief pause as Brown seems to further reflect on his actions and then an explosion; the rest of the band joins Brown in passionately calling out to the person he left. It also serves as a subtle reminder that this is a rock album, and the album does not stop rocking until the end. “All Beauty Fades” is the perfect track to open this album because it sets the stage perfectly for the conflict Brown and company explore throughout the next 5 songs; love from a distance, or, more pessimistically the inability to let go.
The album then moves onto “A Million Miles,” an up-tempo rocker focusing on Brown’s struggle to cope without, presumably, the person he left in “All Beauty Fades.” Asking “while you were out there did you ever think of me” before launching into his impassioned plea to always be there to support this mystery woman. As Brown continues coming to grips with the fact that he’s in one place and the woman is in another the music breaks down into an absolutely beautiful guitar solo. Considering how the art of soloing has seemingly been on the decline, it is a very welcome addition here. Especially considering how perfectly it fits into the song; it isn’t a solo of “guitar wankery” to show off ability but a solo of pure emotion, like everything else on the album.
“A Blueprint for Writhing” continues on, moving into the most introspective song on the album; “The Wrong One.” The song details Brown’s acceptance that he shoulders a majority of the burden for the break-up. The lyrics are brutally honest and show Brown to be more vulnerable than I am personally used to seeing in music. Like I said earlier, I feel like I already know Cris better than people I actually do know. He hides nothing from the listener with his songs. What makes “The Wrong One” work even better than just incredibly vulnerable lyrics is the dramatic backing the song features for approximately half of the song. The highlight is the pounding drum spaced perfectly creating what sounds almost like a heartbeat, matching Brown’s interpersonal conflict. Midway through the song you feel the crescendo as Brown really comes to grips with his situation and then the song explodes into a fantastic climax.
“Never Let You Go” follows, and this song is special not only for being a great song but because it features former Joan Redd vocalist Anthony Basurto in his last recording before his untimely death. Brown and Basurto complement each other wonderfully. The song itself happens to be incredibly catchy, while also being the hardest hitting, thanks to Basurto. Lyrically the song furthers the story being told here by the almost desperate cry for Brown’s former partner to come back, because no matter what, Brown won’t let go. The point is really driven home thanks to Basurto’s powerful vocals.
Jumping to the complete opposite end of the spectrum, the album comes to “Uneasy,” a piano-driven ballad featuring Blair Simpson. “Uneasy” was chosen as the album’s first single and a video was shot, and uploaded to Youtube, where proceeds were donated to help Hurricane Sandy relief. The video raised $7,200 for the cause. The video was also named MTVU’s “Freshman of the Week” and will be played 20-25 times a week for the next month on MTVU. The song really showcases the band’s overall ability, going from a pretty rocking album to a soft and gentle ballad. The song harkens back to some of the band’s more well-known works; “A Day to Be Alone,” “If You Want Me,” and “All That’s Best in You.” While “The Wrong One” was the most introspective song on the album, “Uneasy” is, in my opinion at least, the most powerful. It’s so simple and that is what makes it so effective and heart-wrenching. Simpson’s delicate voice only furthers the song’s gentleness.
Overall, I cannot say enough good things about this album. The band is immensely talented and the lyrics are so refreshingly honest. It is just a real pleasurable listening experience. The only downside is that the whole album is only about thirty minutes long. But, considering the emotional journey the band takes you on for those thirty minutes, it just feels greedy asking for more.
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