August 09, 2003

Accelera Deck "Softcore Paradise"

You know how Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices has made a habit over the last couple of years of overdubbing his vocals onto other peopleís music for his Fading Captain releases (Airport 5, Go Back Snowball, Phantom Tollbooth, etc.)? Well, I believe that the Adams brothers of Hood should one day overdub their own vocals on top of this album. Why? Because every single note on Acetate Zeroís Softcore Paradise sounds as if it were ripped lock, stock, and barrel from Hoodís Silent ë88 and Rustic Houses, Forlorn Valleys. Theyíve got the sound down pat: the slow guitar arpeggios, brushed drums, meandering bass lines, and occasional blasts of fuzzy feedback and programmed beats. What arenít present, for the most part, are vocals and hooks.

Out of the eighteen songs on this album, only four feature singing, and only two of those are any good. Thatís because they feature only female vocals (the band members are listed by the initial of their first name, so I donít know who is who). When the girl sings, the bandís personality leans more toward slow-core giants Low and Empress. On the opening track, ìContemplating the Existence of the Leaves,î her vocals usher in a swell of flutes and synthesized strings that give the song a kind of bombast sorely lacking in the rest of the record. Although ìMetropolitan Fatal Dawnî begins with a chorus of droning cellos, it quickly turns into a suffocating acoustic dirge once she takes the microphone. Acetate Zero are at its closest to distinctiveness and brilliance when she sings. On the other hand, when the guy sings his tuneless warbling pummels the music into the abyss of suckdom. The first half of ìZealous Atomís Rageî is the worst vocal performance Iíve heard on a rock record all year, and the only thing that redeems the song is the fact that the girl takes over on vocals halfway through. The bandís instrumental compositions are tuneful and pretty, but overall theyíre just not dynamic enough to compensate for the lack of vocals. Youíll keep waiting for the shy, throaty vocals of the Adams
brothers to come in.

The dearth of true personality is even more evident in the remixes contained on the CD: the Remote Viewerís contribution sounds exactly like a Remote Viewer song, and Stewardís remix sounds exactly like Steward. While Softcore Paradise has its merits, it is firmly a ìRecommend If You Likeî record. Program the two songs with male singing out, and you have forty minutes of decent background music. Otherwise, I cannot enthusiastically recommend it to anyone who doesnít already own records by the any of the artists Iíve already cited. However, if the band decides to write lyrics for their next album, and NEVER, EVER, EVER LET THE GUY SING, Acetate Zero could really be on to something good.

--Sean Padilla

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