CD Review of Light Rides the Super Major by Up the Empire

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Light Rides the Super Major
starstarstarno starno star Label: Cougar
Released: 2007
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Is alternative rock ready to kick emo’s butt back to the curb? If you’re someone who hopes so, you may be interested in the debut album from Brooklyn, NY quartet Up the Empire. There’s little in the way of effects, but plenty of rock as the band throws down a hard driving sound with richly distorted guitars and feedback. The songs mix grunge, power pop, noisepop, indie rock, etc. Some of the songs feature guitar melodies that recall the Strokes, but as if fronted by Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis…

Guitarists Doug Keith and Chris Renn do an admirable job of creating different parts that mesh well, blending power chords with single line melodic riffs. Drummer Ben Lord is a powerhouse and Dan Hawkins isn’t shy about putting his bass lines up front in the mix.

“Volcano” kicks off the album with some turbo charged rock that recalls the Smashing Pumpkins with its catchy guitar harmonics and pounding drums. “This Machine Blows Minds” recalls Urge Overkill, the one-time buzz band from the mid ‘90s that featured catchy, grungy guitars and gritty yet melodic vocal harmonies. “Stars at Noon” is another standout track, featuring some otherworldly guitar melodies that should be a real crowd pleaser live. “Feel like Dying” sees the band showing off the vocal harmonies again, which they would do well to develop further, what with there being so few bands with strong harmony abilities these days.

Sonic Youth is another band that Up the Empire brings to mind, in how they sometimes seem to struggle with noise vs. melody. But that creative tension creates some interesting tension and release moments, as well as some diverse sonic landscapes.

~Greg Schwartz