Nobody Knows This Is Everywhere
an it be that it’s already time for 1990’s nostalgia? I suppose it’s never too early for that sort of fixation, considering how much things have changed since then. And if one can wistfully look back to the days of baggy jeans, cardigans (the band and the sweater), and Empire Records, then why not the heyday of Northwestern indie rock? You remember, don’t you? That little era between roughly 1994 and 1998 when bands like Modest Mouse, Built To Spill, Caustic Resin, Dub Narcotic Sound System, and countless others seemed to rule the world? Oh yes, those were the days. Sadly though, BTS and Modest Mouse joined the major label ship, DNSS and local powerhouse Up Records fizzled out, and as for Caustic Resin, well, frankly, no one really cared about them. 764-Hero was there though, and still are, continuing to churn out music rooted in the unmistakable sound of those happier times.
After one album and the obligatory series of 7"'s, the group released 1998’s Get Here And Stay, their most realized work yet. It built upon the rough-around-the-edges sound of those early singles, and benefited from the addition of Red Star Theory’s James Bertram on bass. 2000 saw the even better Weekends Of Sound, where the tempos got heavier, and songs longer, while the mood remained consistently somber. As good as the album was, it got to be a bit much for one sitting, as did the rest of the band’s material. For every “Loaded Painted Red”, “History’s Lessons”, or “Terrified of Flight”, there was a clodding “Without Fire” or “Ward’s County”. As much as I hated to admit it, I began to feel that my problem with the band was that they lacked melody. While I loved the jarring beauty of the aforementioned songs, I just wanted them to let loose and write some great pop songs, without sacrificing their unique sound. It appears as though my wishes have been answered with their marvelous new full-length, entitled Nobody Knows This Is Everywhere.
“Oceanbound”, the first track, is a good indication of this welcome change. John Atkins’ guitar strums the opening notes, and is soon joined by Poly Johnson’s surf-like drums. The chorus marks the first time that the band has created something that is pretty in the conventional sense of the word (i.e. sunshine, flowers, and sunsets, but not like, in an emo way or anything), rather than as a result of its starkness. As Atkins intones “caught in the act of wanting it back, but still you’d never admit to that, heard about you, what would you do if everything that I heard was true”, he is greeted by a tambourine and handclaps (!). The next song, “Photographic Evidence” continues in this vein. While Johnson and Atkins are both in top form, it’s here that the album’s secret weapon is revealed: new bassist Robin P., who accompanied the band on tour last year after Bertram exited. His skillful lines are both discreet and outspoken, filling in space with elegance. But perhaps the strongest addition to the 764-Hero sound however, is piano, which is used to magnificent effect on “At The Surface” (which recalls a more sinister, guitar based Billy Joel), the killer ballad “Skylines”, and the jazzy “Satellites”. By the time that the album finishes, few flaws are evident.
It’s clear that the 764-Hero is a band that knows what they’re doing, and when to shake things up. A lesser band would have merely ridden the same track until their demise, but with Nobody Knows This Is Everywhere, 764-Hero have single handedly saved not only themselves, but perhaps Northwestern rock as we know it. If you don’t believe me, check back in December, where you’ll see it on a top 10 list near you.
Reviewed by: Colin McElligatt
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01