Sound — 9
After the harrowingly beautiful, disjointed art rock that was Pony Express Record, we find DCs Shudder to Think softening up. Indeed, it seems as though it took the making of that album to rid their collective psyche of all of their obtuse, subversive demons and to then focus on a hitherto unseen strength- the writing of gorgeous, lush, melodic (almost) pop music. This being guitarist Nathan Larson's second outing with the band, he exerts a lot more influence over the sound- moving them away from their T-shirt-art-rock past and into their sharkskin-art-rock future. Jazzy leads, 60s girl group arrangements, soul, more focused, straight ahead arrangements- that this album didn't make them huge is one of the great injustices of music history.
Lyrics — 9
Craig Wedren has always been one to appear as though he's wearing his heart on his sleeve, while crafting wordscapes that often rely on feeling, not literal interpretation, to get the meaning across. The quantum jump in production values and Larsons already-mentioned soulful tunesmithing only serve to intensify this. Admittedly, Wedrens controlled chaos vocal swooping and careening, while dizzying at times, can make a song seem more dramatic than necessary. On 50,000 B.C., however, he seems to be relaxing a little- letting the songs be the focal (aural?) point. And it must be said... The lyrics to "The Saddest Day of my Life" resonate with a universal sense of loss and the secret revenge that everyone has considered enough to make it one of rock musics undiscovered treasures.
Overall Impression — 10
From the opener, "Call of the Playground", the listener familiar with the band senses something different. A new sense of punctuality and structure. Soon, though, the album unfolds in increasingly dramatic ways, leaving the listener unsure if they're hearing love songs or the unsettling ramblings of a psychotic. "All Eyes are Different" seems pleading on the surface, but its insistent chorus creates questions. Similarly, the jazzy sheen of the album, with the exception of a few flat-out rockers, tends to leave the listener feel a little like they've been abused by a very gentle sadist. These contradictions make for one beautifully compelling and, ultimately, dangerous work.