Sound: Subtlety has it's place, even in the world of rock and roll. While you might think you've figured out Louisiana's The Terms after listening to the first two songs on Small Town Computer Crash, you might find yourself retracting your original thoughts of the band by the time the album ends. What at first sounds like your run-of-the-mill low-key soft rock, quickly become a multi-faceted album full of original ideas.
The laid-back style of many of the songs on Small Town Computer Crash will not appeal to those who like a dominating guitar with a crunchier sound emanating from every strum. The Terms (vocalist/guitarist Ben Labat, electric guitarist Clyde Hargrove, bassist Brandon Young, drummer Scott Lasseigne, and percussionist Black Oliver) follow in the footsteps of bands like the Gin Blossoms and The Wallflowers in that they have a very accessible sound to wide audiences. There is nothing too challenging on the ear, and it's usual a pleasant, relaxing experience.
The first track Big City Concrete Wildflowers stays a little close to the soft rock formula and it leaves the listener a little distant because of it's formulaic construction. It feels very much like a Wallflowers tune and there's a close resemblance in the vocal delivery and rhythm heard in Jakob Dylan's band. The song is again, relaxing, but it lacks the distinction that a new band might want to capitalize on in the first track.
Thankfully, The Terms eventually prove that they are talented songwriters and musicians that aren't afraid to go in different musical directions. Ransom Groove is absolutely the best song on Small Town Computer Crash, with it's mystical and dark feel. In fact, at times it feels like it could have been a track off and album by The Doors. Labat dips his voice down in a very Jim Morrison-ish low register while Hargrove goes the way of Robby Krieger's subtle, whining guitar, recreating the same ritualistic vibe that the late great Doors vocalist could back in the day.
Not all the songs on the CD have the creativity of Ransom Groove, but there are enough interesting elements present to keep the listener attentive. In the end, The Terms prove that the album has a few secrets that are not immediately recognizable in the first few songs. // 8
Lyrics: The Terms never reach lyrical genius on Small Town Computer Crash, but this is not to say the words get too dull. Some of the rhyme schemes are fairly predictable, but lyricist and vocalist Ben Labat does come up with inspired and refreshing lyrics now and then.
Even though the band is a softer rock band, we should remember that they are from Louisiana -- a place long associated with vampires. So it shouldn't be too surprising that one of the more interesting songs is called The Vampyre's Ball. Labat sings, She at her heart out with a golden spoon; Time for me was never time at all; When they dressed her up for the vampyre's ball. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but it's actually refreshing to hear such unexpected words coming from a band like The Terms.
In Ugly, Labat shows his literary prowess by including metaphorical phrases. Love does not seed to please herself; And jealousy would never place himself; In the path of free love; Innocence just lights the way. The words are a nice touch in a song, which although has nice guitar work in the intro, is not one of the standout songs on the CD. // 8
Overall Impression: The Terms will likely find plenty of fans of a more low-key sound that other bands like Snow Patrol and contemporary Tom Petty have supplied over the years. The band does not stick to just one sound, however, which is the saving grace of Small Town Computer Crash. You hear everything from a Caribbean vibe in Gulf of Tonkin to a bluesy groove in Neutron Bomb. Not every band has the guts to add these styles into their repertoire, but The Terms have both the talent and the songwriting skills to pull it off successfully.
The new CD will not appeal to everyone, and those who enjoy a harder sound will want to turn it off immediately. You won't find a driving rock sound pretty much anywhere on Small Town Computer Crash, but this is not to say that a tune like Ransom Groove is not just as heavy and emotionally charged as some hardcore tunes out there. Not all soft rock bands dare to go beyond the comfort zone, and The Terms prove they aren't afraid to go out in the wild just a bit. // 8