This album is a collection of illusions, the foremost of which is that this dynamic, experimental Indie Rock outfit consists of only one member, Rob Ford (at least that was the case as of this recording; Suchanuglything has since grown into a quartet). He's been playing and recording for quite some time, but The Fear is his first submission to the Vibrating Needle Recording Collective, a group of local, independent home recorders. The disc establishes Ford as both a skilled minimalist soundscape artist and a solid one-man band. Another misleading aspect of this release is the track listing. Several of the five songs denoted contain a number of movements, including epic lo-fi instrumentals, extended samples, a Post-Punk jam, an elegant, plucked gypsy guitar piece and several moody acoustic numbers that use dual vocals (one deep and hushed, the other soaring and plaintive) to great effect. The net result of this untamed variety is a postmodern feel, yet the album has some strong nods to '60s Psychedelia, such as the jangly closer and several twangy guitar solos. Only one fault is worthy of mention, and that's the occasional weaknesses of Ford's drumming. It sometimes lacks feel, but this detail is not uncommon for self-contained projects like this. Overall, The Fear shows a lot of potential and demonstrates that Ford knows his strengths and is not afraid to innovate. The final ruse is that this intriguing collection might have little bearing on the current or future sound of the band, as the direction they'll take as an ensemble is yet to be seen. But with Ford at the helm, it is likely to be worthy of attention.
(Ezra Waller) Grade: B
· LIZ BOWATER -- LAST CONFESSION EP
Having recently relocated to the Cincinnati area from Chicago, singer/songwriter Liz Bowater has chosen a good homebase, as her soulful, intimate style shares the same stratosphere in which local acts like Over the Rhine, Kim Taylor and Ellery float. On her recent EP, Last Confession, Bowater delivers five tracks of acoustic-based introspection. She writes candidly and smartly about what many twentysomethings think about -- why am I here, where am I going, how will I get there? The language is simple, but the sentiments are intricate and often spiritual, as Bowater unravels a virtual audio journal, wondering, for example, on "Things Done and Left Undone," "If I could only step outside/Take a picture of the way I appear ... Would you believe it's really me?" But Bowater's magnetic voice and songwriting is what is most grabbing. Bowater sings commandingly with a strong, versatile lilt, rattling off sparklingly sublime melodies with an almost effortless ease, making the overall package seem even more conversational and insular. Her minimal but imaginative acoustic guitar playing is front and center with the vocals for the bulk of the EP, though producer E.D. Englerth sprinkles some light, glistening accoutrements (bass and electric guitar) to the delicate glaze. The unfussy, sparse mix is perfect for Bowater's songs, but, when listening, it's hard not to imagine what she could do with a more fleshed-out approach. Though effective and poignant, Confession sometimes feels more like a sketch; Bowater deserves a full, multi-color palette and a wider canvas. Still, the emotive atmospherics conjured on the EP are remarkably riveting. (Mike Breen) Grade: B+
· CATALYST FOR CHANGE -- CATALYST FOR CHANGE EP
Local band Catalyst for Change claims to have been at the Hard Rock game since 2000. But based on their debut EP, they've only made it about halfway up the learning curve in that time. This impression comes from both the disc's lackluster sound and the fact that they are falling short of their goal to produce original music that can't be pigeonholed. The samples on the EP are pretty much standard Post-Grunge with some Tool influence. There is some interesting writing happening and the music is well executed, but overall CfC is too derivative to grab attention. The sound of the EP is also anemic. The bass guitar is primarily busy slap-and-pop, the kick drum is little more than a distorted snap and the guitar has very little in the way of low end, leaving the mix sounding barren. Hard Rock needs to have some rumble, and this recording is woefully short on ass, which sucks the impact out of the music. A shame, because vocalist Nick Baker has some talents that could shine in the proper context. He writes very good lyrics, and his voice is accurate and versatile. However, he needs to work a bit harder on finding his own style -- currently it sounds like Chad Kroeger and Eddie Vedder taking turns doing Maynard James Keenan impressions. Before CfC heads into the studio again, they should seek out some competent recording assistance and consider trimming the stale ingredients from their repertoire. They have some interesting ideas floating around, but they haven't pulled them in on this effort. (EW) Grade: C-