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CD Reviews: Review of Shrinking Violets by Geoff Byrd
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Click here to buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com Geoff Byrd: Shrinking Violets (Granite 2005)

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To say that Geoff Byrd cuts an unassuming figure isn’t entirely true. Glancing at his visage staring out from the cover of his latest album, Shrinking Violets, he has a look about him that’s vaguely familiar...like you might’ve seen him somewhere before, but you can’t quite remember from where, although you have a suspicion that he just might be one of the less famous members of N’Sync. (If you’re a little older, you might wonder if he was one of the guys from Color Me Badd.)

As it happens, Byrd has no boy band ties, but he’s well on his way to being a phenomenon nonetheless.

It’s not like artists nowadays aren’t using the internet and World Wide Web to their advantage when it comes to building and embracing their fan bases, but few have done it quite as successfully as Byrd. He’s reached MSN’s top 20 downloads and had 20 million views online via the service, held 4 of the top 5 spots on GarageBand.com simultaneously, was a premiere artist on Microsoft’s Windows ad campaign, had his song “Silver Plated” declared the most played song in the world on internet radio (or, at least, that’s what Radiowave said, anyway), and has managed to see his face on the covers of both Billboard and Radio and Records magazines, all without major label backing. As MSN said, “Geoff Byrd is well on his way to becoming the first star truly born from the internet.”

These days, Byrd’s on Granite Records, which puts him more or less in the majors, since the label is distributed by Fontana, which is part of the Universal Music Company Group, but it’s not stopping him from working the streets as hard as he can; he spent April through June doing a radio tour from Seattle, Washington, to Burlington, Vermont.

The aforementioned “Silver Plated” is the first single from Byrd’s sophomore effort and, like the man himself, it has an air of familiarity about it. It doesn’t sound exactly like anyone, yet it’s such a solidly soulful pop/rock nugget that, even on first listen, you can hear why Byrd’s been able to score his success: he’s good, plain and simple. It’s not a one-off, either; the follow-up single, “Before Kings,” has a chorus that soars into the stratosphere, reminiscent of Tal Bachman’s “She’s So High.”

So solid is Shrinking Violets that, instead of placing the album’s best songs either at the beginning or the end, there’s actually a three-song stretch smack dab in the middle of the album that’s enough to win anyone over. “That’s How It Goes” opens with a sentiment that many frustrated radio listener will recognize.

"As I listen to the radio, I’m singing along
But it’s a song that I don’t even know
If it was me, I’d probably rearrange the melody,
But nobody’s asking me, and that’s how it goes"

Next up is “Plasti-Queens,” with its killer chorus:

"You need surgery to feel pretty enough
So daddy bought you a D cup
For your 21st birthday
Now you can blend in in West LA.
Everyone is buying good genes
For their plasti-queens"

The killer trio completes with “Elusive Butterfly,” which trots along like a Sturmer/Manning composition, with at least one couplet that the pair would’ve killed to have written (“Girl, you’re 27 shades of gray / But you appear in Technicolor the next day”), sung against the backdrop of a cheerfully plunking piano. This comes as no surprise to those who’ve perused the liner notes, where Byrd admits that he likes “the idea of being the underdog and sort of being an underground rumor amongst internet nerds and people who like the Beatles and Jellyfish.”

If a song like “Frozen” may sound a bit too much like one of the aforementioned boy bands, it’s a rarity amongst this collection. Byrd wrote all the songs either by himself or with the assistance of one Michael Page, and his interest is in embracing melody rather than popularity, so, if nothing else, you can be assured that there’s nothing here written solely because he was looking for a hit. That having been said, however, there are a dozen songs here, and most any of them could score significant airplay if given half a chance. 

~Will Harris 


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