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Sprockets - Medicated Empty

Medicated Empty


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A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

A few readers have noted that I'm a bit harsh on punk and associated genre acts. Well, there's good reason for that. On the other hand, when true musicianship rears its often raucous head, the fact of excellence becomes obvious and thus my affinities for groups like All American Rejects, Chevelle, and other ensembles boasting real musicians rather than snotty half-talented posers banging away in spastic clueless abandon.

Looking to the authentic, the Sprockets are squarely up the kind of darkly seductive alley everyone looks for. More, they heartily display what it takes to create art—mainly: ya gotta know what the fuck yer doin'. A cross of metal, cabaret, punk, and alt, this trio has its shit together, amplified by a passion barely restrained in evident craftsmanship and killer arrangements. Guitarist Brodie Knight Vans wields an axe oscillating between brutality and elegance but also knows how to sing. Eschewing the feeble half-hearted tones so prevalent nowadays, when he descends to reflective passages, there's actual melody and pitch, and when he belts it out during the violent episodes, his vocal force matches the intensity of the careening distorted background. This is the Sprockets' latest since debuting in 2006, and it displays a surprisingly seasoned band highly professional in every detail, extremely well presented (Tumbledown frontman Mike Herrera produced and engineered the CD while Grammy winner Richard Dodd took on the mastering), three-dimensional, and even verging into Queensryche / Savatage territory, especially during Safety Nets and Fastened Windows.

Medicated is dark and brooding, punctuated by discontent, angst, lashing out. The content is powerful, reflective, brilliantly contrasted, and, every so often, an eerily refined atmosphere, captured by bassist Dave Schwaller's piano, sneaks in to remind listeners of the strongly connoted intelligence beneath plainly visceral qualities. Drummer Dustin Johnson has heartily transcended the thud-bump metal school, a player not a time clock, and is crucial to the propulsive rhythms Sprockets bursts with. In short, this is a great CD, and if your head doesn't spin while listening to it, start thinking about supporting the push for single payer health care reform, 'cause I think you may be dead, probably don't know it, and that could be expensive.

Track List:

  • Medicated Empty
  • Your Infection
  • Safety Nets and Fastened Windows
  • Blue Burns in Butterflies
  • Liquid Bullets
  • Uniformed Mascara
  • Hollywood Holidays
  • New Years Day
  • Scarlet Skylines Bleed to Blue
  • Nebraska
  • Unsung Heroes
  • Flood Lights
  • The Sound of Existence
All songs written by Sprockets.

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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