Why doesn’t this band get more attention and recognition than it does? Roadside Monument is one of the best bands on Tooth and Nail Records. You could probably lump them into the “emo” category. Roadside is a very emotional band. Their songs range from quiet strummings and gentle basslines to out-of-control pounding drums and bursts of feedback. Vocally, they can be whispering and singing tenderly the one minute, and suddenly, screaming like their hearts are being ripped out them.
The album opens up with the blistering “Sperm Ridden Burden,” a song about a single mother and the child she is carrying. Bassist and vocalist Johnathan Ford’s voice can be heard screaming over the tumultuous drums and noise. But don’t mistake his screams for some ovely tortured angst. Rather, it resembles the pain of the birth, the pain that the child and the woman must face. And don’t think that these guys don’t know how to play their instruments and are just pounding and thrashing away. The trio are amazing musicians, and all of their performances come across and tight and focused. Roadside knows how to use noise, and to great effect.
“Iowa Backwoods” is the first of the instrumentals on this album, and is probably my favorite song on the album. The song starts off with a burst of feedback that gives way to some beautiful guitarwork that reminds me somewhat of Low, albeit more upbeat. The songs rolls along and builds up, accompanied with a trumpet and the reading of a portion of “White Nights” by Dostovsky until the final culmination.
One of the things that’s noticeable about Roadside Monument is that their songs are so diverse from beginning to end. “Tired Of Living With People Who Are Tired Of Living” starts off as a rocker, brash and bold. However, it abruptly changes about a minute and a half into a slow, mellow piece that sounds like a completely different song. And then it changes again. And again. But somehow, it all comes off sounding beautiful and well. That’s why I always feel like I’ve listened to several albums worth of material after I get finished listening to something by Roadside; they pack so much into each and every piece.
It’s hard for me to say what they’re singing about. And that’s because at times it’s hard to hear the voices and because the lyrics are quite cryptic in and of themselves. Most of the lyrics strike me as incredibly personal observations, like they were jotted down in passing. But, for some reason, the words themselves take on meaning and signifigance just for being there. And the vocals… well, I like the awkward and honest quality of these guys’ voices. I just wish sometimes I could hear what they singing, that the voices were a little higher in the mix.
This was a really tough review for me write, simply because my mind is still being made up. I like the album, but it strikes me as so massive and packed together. Roadside has undergone several personnel changes, but they come out with this album that is probably one of most challenging things that Tooth and Nail Records has ever released. These guys are intelligent and good at crafting songs. This album is nowhere near as accessible as their debut Beside This Brief Hexagonal, but whenever I listen to that album now, it seems lightweight and flimsy compared to this one. I feel like there’s something bad I should be saying about this album, some complaint. Maybe that will come at a later time, but for now, I’ll just enjoy the record. If I think of them, I’ll let you know.
Update: It’s been over half a year since I got this album, and I have nothing bad to say about it. In fact, my appreciation and liking of this album has grown and grown. We need more music like this.