January 16, 2003

Roy "Big City Sin and Small Town Redemption"

Musicians often find it necessary to break away and make music that's different from what they usually do. I could regurgitate a list of artists who have made 'side project' records that are shockingly different than their main gig. Folk Implosion (Sebadoh), SOD (Anthrax), Ugly Casanova (Modest Mouse) and Barry Black (Archers of Loaf) are just a few bands who I have more than a little time for, and they are all worthy side projects. We should now add Roy to this list. But be warned: the members of Roy all come from hardcore-based bands--most notibly Botch and up-and-comers These Arms Are Snakes--and Roy is most certainly not like their previous/current bands.

Though those looking for the hardcore sound of the past might be disappointed, they shouldn't be. Big City Sin And Small Town Redemption, Roy's debut full-length album, is a strong effort. Of course, it's obvious from the get-go that this album's special. Album opener "Something That's Real" kicks off with the cryptic line "Why can't you just admit to the fact that you're not all that blue," it then launches into a really loud guitar drone and a very faint keyboard riff that (on headphones at least) picks up where The Who left off on "5:15," before switching over to a country-rock beat that would make Rhett Miller extremely jealous. Throw in some lo-fi groovers a la GBV (such as "Gold Rush" and "They Cut the Chord") and it becomes quite obvious that they're doing one thing: making traditional rock music.

The rest of Big City Sin never really falters from that country-rock-punk formula, though they never get too twangy or too punky or too rocky, opting for a swirling blend of styles that just sounds right. Though not everything works--one or two of these songs could have been edited out and it wouldn't have hurt the album any, and I still can't reconcile the fact that"Darryl Worley Forgotten" sounds an awful lot like Cracker--but for the most part the albums strongest moments deftly cover for the weaker moments. There are plenty of great ideas, though; their songwriting is actually quite tight, and if you think that their past is something they've forgotten, you're wrong. Throughout the album--such as the overwhelmingly poweful guitar on "Don't Overdub My Heart"--moments pop up that prove that the rock dragon in their hearts is not dead, but merely sleeping. In fact, at times it seems as if Roy's as much a result of restraint as much as it is an exercise in melody.

Big City Sin and Small Town Redemption is an album that's a lot like the new year: it's fresh, it's new, and though you've been here before, you know that you're gonna want to see how it comes out in the end. If anything, it is certainly evidence that these Roy boys have come up with a band that deserves to be much more than a 'side project'.

--Joseph Kyle

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