Sound — 8
Facedown Records have amassed quite the loyal following with their successful roster of hardcore and death metal bands. Wanting to broaden their stylistic scope, owner Jason Dunn has created a new imprint called Dreamt Music that will house artists that don't necessarily fall under their usual genre umbrellas. When Dreams Become Reality, by newcomers Thieves & Liars, is the flagship release for the label. Despite their relatively young age, the band is cut from the same cloth as seventies era bands as Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and Blue Oyster Cult. Everything from their blues-boogie guitar runs to the extended instrumental interludes scream out the Me Decade. While there is no question there are other current bands (The Sword, Wolfmother) taking their sound straight from the classic rock book. Few have infused their material with the delicate touches that Thieves & Liars grace much of their album with. There are six-string workouts like Road to Nowhere early on but they keep you guessing with shifts of style and mood through the entire album. The left and right punch of Alone and Forgotten are the exact kind of lefts turn this album constantly thrills you with. Both songs are filled to the brim with strings, acoustic instrumentation and gorgeous vocal melodies. The harmonies, by bassist/vocalist Joey Bradford and guest Steven Bradford, actually brought the less over-the-top moments of Chris Cornell to mind. Credit must also be given to Chris Hobson for the breathtaking string arrangements. Not a band to be held down to one mood for too long, they get back into the heavier groove of the title track soon after. I had to check the credits on this one to make sure Jeff Beck wasn't playing on it!
Lyrics — 7
When Dreams Become Reality seems to be a concept album with some kind of religious storyline to it. For the sake of the writers' intent, I will not try and decipher the story's intention or meaning. I'll just go ahead and try and deal with these lyrics on a song by song basis. What is clear is the band's command of language and nuance. The moral tale, Run, aches away seemingly Adam & Eve inspired lines like ...won't let you turn me on/devil in a red dress I am gone. Imagery like this is completely unconventional for a band of this ilk but somehow it works well in the scheme of the project. Whether you find their spiritual tone too much too stomach, and believe me, I did at times, you'll be engaged at some level. Look at it this way, at least you weren't treated to the usual marijuana fueled hippie-talk their fellow seventies inspired rockers get stuck in.
Overall Impression — 8
It's unusual for a band to deliver an album this realized and confident, on every level, the first time out. To start, they understood to really pay respect to their heroes of yesterday, they had to provide a total sensory entity for the listener. Thirty years ago, you would put an album on the turntable, sit with the jacket's artwork and take everything in as one complete experience. In these days of custom iTunes playlists and ultra-compressed MP3s, the glory days of the album have gone way of the transistor radio. Thieves & Liars understand the legacy and have done a stellar job of trying to revive it with When Dreams Become Reality. Not only do we get a muscular set of songs played with the kind of assurance usually reserved for veterans, we also get beautifully packaged CD art. From the ornate cover, that looks like a vintage book, to the vividly painted dreamscapes by Dave Quiggle that adorn each page, Dreamt Music have not spared any expenses. If you didn't know any better, you would think you were reading this review in Creem Magazine right now.