Acoustic Transitions Volume One
The title of this compilation is something of a misnomer. Yes, there are acoustic tracks on Acoustic Transitions Volume One, but they only comprise a third of the disc. The other nine songs are fully electric efforts by the groups in question. (And let's not get into the fact that the guitar on the cover is an electric.)
So what gives? Truth is that the aim of this CD is to introduce audiences to a brand new label (Florida-based Paradyne Records) and their stable of bands. The hook of this collection is the rather overdone trend of rock bands strapping on acoustic guitars to record mellower, supposedly more heartfelt versions of their otherwise aggressive songs. Four bands rise to the challenge with fine results, but it was unnecessary to put these reins on them in the first place. Left alone with their amplifiers turned on, they are all strong songwriters completely capable of sidling their expressive lyrics and melodic hooks in with the power punch of their emotive rock.
One of the best is Vega Under Fire, an adorably moppet-like quintet who, in their electric mode, slip a bit of disco fire and dying police siren keyboards into the mix of "Catapult", as well as quick touch of chugging metal guitars. It's surprisingly understated for a young, eager-to-please group. VUF also manage to make the move into acoustic territory easily on this collection's opening track, "To Whom I Adore," undercut only by a nasally vocal performance by vocalist Brian Blount and occasionally over-earnest lyricism.
VUF are joined in the acoustic section of this CD by This Armistice, a rare group of rockers who access darker shades of the musical spectrum. They don't dwell on the moodier moments, instead using them to cull the deeper emotions that lie at their core. That sounds hoary as all get out, but it works in both their more naked-sounding acoustic track "(New Breath + New Heartbeat) = Change" and the furious waves that they generate later on with the politically minded "Bullet Holes In Concrete."
While the other two bands don't fare as well with the stripped-down approach of Transitions, they do shine elsewhere. Dreamer's bold, simmering bit of midtempo rock "The Sun" gives the most joy thanks to a stirring vocal performance by Paul Rose and the unrelenting buzz of guitars that runs through the whole song. And one of the bands who don’t unplug for this affair, Spinlight City, veer between a chest-beating plea and high-kicking pop-punk without losing the strength of their impact.
It’s too bad that we only get a small dose of what these groups are capable of. But in that way, Paradyne has accomplished their most obvious goal with Transitions: whetting the appetite of listeners and leaving them hungry for more.