CD Review of Conflict Resolution by The Passive Aggressives
Recommended if you like
Evanescence, Alanis Morissette, Primus
Label
Dead Fish Records
The Passive Aggressives:
Conflict Resolution

Reviewed by Greg M. Schwartz

O
akland’s premiere indie alt-rockers follow up 2007’s Reloaded EP with a debut album that is a dynamic showcase for the formidable talents of vocalist Keren Gaiser. The one-time member of the Israeli Defense Forces formerly aspired to the Celine Dion pop realm until her husband wisely convinced her to audition for the Passive Aggressives, a hard-rocking power trio who were searching for a replacement female vocalist. The partnership has revealed Gaiser’s true talent, with the singer morphing into a legitimate rock goddess who could blow away anyone on "American Idol."

The boys in the band offer up a bass-heavy sound, blending an alt-rock edge with some Primus-style funk grooves. It’s a refreshing throwback to the early ‘90s, with songwriting that focuses on melodic hooks Gaiser can sink her pipes into. Gaiser’s vocals here are sure to strike a chord with anyone who ever wished that singers like Tori Amos, Dido or Natalie Merchant would rock out more.

"Violeta" is a tour de force, with Gaiser’s vocals starting soft over acoustic guitars and rising to a memorable crescendo when the band kicks in on the electrifying outro. The title track is another highlight, a dynamic mid-tempo rocker that grabs the ear and won’t let go. Tunes like "Soundtrack to the Voices in My Head" and an amped-up cover of the Turtles’ "Happy Together" show a playful, high-energy pop-punk side. "World of Compromise," "Slice It Away," and "Don’t Want to Be You" offer slower numbers where Gaiser shows a softer side, but with the band still demonstrating strong musicianship that goes well beyond standard pop fare.

Bassist Damien Lynch packs a Claypool-esque wallop throughout the album, slapping and popping while still rocking. Guitarist Jose Santiago stomps his wah-wah pedal with ferocity, drummer Tim Dayner pounds away with a focused abandon, and the unit clearly has some chemistry. The production isn’t always as crisp as it could be, and some of the male backing vocals fall a bit short, but the tunes are mostly strong, and Gaiser shines at every turn with star talent that’s poised to go supernova.

The album offers encouragement for any rocker to open their minds when judging the talent of potential bandmates. Lynch says the band hesitated to bring Gaiser in at first, wondering if she would be able to deliver the necessary rock attitude in her vocals. But her audition was one of the most "mind-bending" moments he’s experienced in music. "She came in looking all sweet and pretty, but when she started singing, the minute the drums started rolling, she mutated into this rock ‘n’ roll hellcat," Lynch told this reporter last summer. "It was like, where did this rock goddess come from? So it was pretty cool."

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