Friday, October 22, 2004


The Race
If You Can
(Flame Shovel Records)

Is it a blessing or is it a curse to have a voice that sounds exactly like Thom Yorke’s? Well, for Yorke, it’s a blessing because it’s both made Radiohead a zillion of dollars and also intellectualism supremely hot again. But for England’s Muse and Chicago’s The Race, it’s probably a comparison they would rather stop hearing. Like a younger brother just entering high school, both frustrated bands try to establish their own respective identity but then find themselves becoming the shadow of another. And that’s a shame because these two albums are truly wonderful once you get over the Radiohump.

Apparently huge in the UK, Muse has been headlining festivals and churning out consistent hit singles for already a few years. Their latest apocalyptical-themed album, Absolution, is a frenzied, pissed-off punch to the apathetic face. Singer, Matt Bellamy delivers his message as if every day is like Doomsday. On songs like “Butterflies and Hurricanes,” Bellamy screams, albeit gracefully and soaringly, that you should “change everything you are…your hard times are ahead!” while on “Time Is Running Out,” he warns, appropriately enough, that “our time is running out.” All the while, the unrepentant drums and the volcanic guitars both compete for the title of Most Thunderous. Needless to say, this album is not a feel-good Sunday morning brunch soundtrack. It’s an unsettling work about the end of the world. And it sounds like it.

The Race, on the other hand, doesn’t want to rock you into a panic. They want to cradle you into a feeling of ease. While many have complained that Radiohead abandoned its song structures when it went electronica, The Race exists in an alternate universe where OK Computer came installed with a large heartdrive (listen to “Can Get Home” if you’re feeling “Lucky”). Vocalist and guitarist, Craig Klein’s delivery is the lulling comfort to Matt Bellamy’s alarming jolt. Despite If You Can’s brevity (thirty minutes), the Chicago collective’s third release is an indie effort that never feels rushed. It’s a sublime, glitchy-pop half hour that succinctly alleviates any concerns of the impending Judgment Day.


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