February 18, 2004

Maritime "Adios"

The last year of the Promise Ring must have been extremely hard for Davey von Bohlen. After overcoming many difficulties with his health as well as changing record labels, Wood/Water should have been their moment in the sun. They hooked up with legendary British producer Stephen Street, and they actually focused on their songcraft, and the end result was a record that sounded great. Even more importantly, it was a clear break from their past, and it was the record that they'd probably always wanted to make.

The critics and fans hated it, of course.

It comes as no surprise, then, that they quietly disbanded, and their passing was met with apathy and a general attitude of "oh well." After all, the Promise Ring had turned into a band that was expected to jump through hoops (rings?) and simply relive the glory days of their best album, Nothing Feels Good. I really felt for him, because you can't expect to grow as an artist if you're stuck in the past.

But let's forget about those days, shall we?

Maritime is his new project, and he's joined by Promise Ring Dan Didier and former Dismemberment Plan bass player Eric Axelson. The first thing you notice about Adios is how happy Davey sounds. Why shouldn't he sound happy, though? He's in a great position. He's in a new band. He's playing with his friends. Best yet, he's got Mnothing to prove. He doesn't have to live up to anything, and, most importantly, he is now free to make a record on his terms.

Starting with "Adios" (a funny title for the first song on your debut record, if you think about it--the first thing you'll feel is the warmth of the sun, as it's a breezy, upbeat blast of sunshine pop, complete with a perky, upbeat horn section. If the fact that he worked with Stephen Street led you to believe that he's a Smiths fan, "Adios" clearly shows that van Bohlen is more than inspired by Morrissey. It's a wonderful song that would make even the most dour face smile.

Think that's a great start? The next song, "Someone Has To Die," is even more powerful. It's even more upbeat, and it's a hundred times better than the 100 percent pop perfection that came before. The horns are back, and both songs are as close to AM-Radio perfection as you're bound to find in 2004. "Down To The River" is reminiscent of his acoustic side project Vermont, and though it's the slowest song on the record, stuck between one slice of upbeat pop and the lovely "Birds of Ireland,"it works quite nicely. The record closes with "In Your Arms," which is a mellow dance number with a melody that's a quite obvious ripoff of George Harrison's "Something." Still, it's as lovely as it is different, and it reminds me a little bit of mid-80s Everything But the Girl.

This is one of the most promising records I've heard in ages. I'd like to personally welcome you back, Davey. It's good to have you back. Due to all the hardships and disappointments, you could have easily turned your back on music, and nobody would have blamed you. But you didn't, and in so doing, you've proven that your best record wasn't Nothing Feels Good. Maritime feels good, it feels real good. This record is not only recommended, it's essential. It feels good to start over, and Adios is one of the best feel-good records you'll hear all year.

And it doesn't sound a thing like New Found Glory.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.maritimesongs.com

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