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Promise Ring | Wood Water | review | alternative | rock | Lollipop

The Promise Ring

Wood / Water (Anti-)
by Tim Den

The Promise Ring guitarist Jason Gnewikow has been known to warn interviewers "Mention that word ("emo"), and this interview is over." Hopefully, with Wood/Water, he'll never have to make that threat again.

Get it through your heads, people: The Promise Ring haven't been an "emo" band for years. If you were paying attention to the music (instead of the fashion trends), you'd have noticed the jangly pop of Nothing Feels Good and the Cheap Trick-ish Very Emergency as very different from the usual Saves The Day clones. For three studio albums (and a few EPs in between), The Promise Ring have been penning classic cases of power pop that're a million miles ahead of the yelping nonsense/overly-sentimental style "the kids" have been labeling them. Fact: Emo bands do not possess the talent to pen the likes of "Best Looking Boys" or "Deep South." Fact: The Promise Ring's hooks have more in common with Creeper Lagoon than Thursday. Fact: Wood/Water is the band's best album to date, and they ain't gotta thank the category-pushers for it.

Members of this band have been quoting (numerous times) acts like Pet Shop Boys and The Corrs as favorite bands over the past few years. How people continued to lump them together with The Get Up Kids is beyond me. Wood/Water finally silences all. It's a mature, thinking album that sounds like Wilco writing acoustic songs for The Smiths. The pace is confident, the vibe is warm and vibrant, the melodies swim like pollen in the spring air, and there are no predictable, tear-jerking breakdowns in sight. Wood/Water is beyond that. It doesn't need to push any buttons to get you to notice its delicate make up. Like the difference between a master writer and a hack, The Promise Ring tell you the story without using excessive adjectives. Leave the heave-ho to the teenagers; they can cry over their melodramatic, inconsequential high school romances in E-major progressions all they want. The grown-ups will be all too glad to keep Wood/Water's many atmospheres to themselves.

"Size of Your Life" kicks off the record with bell-like guitars and a fuzzbox vocal singing the catchiest, most uplifting tune you've heard all summer, then gives way to the Travis-ish downer "Stop Playing Guitar." From then on, every song tells a story of its own, each presenting a whole new bag of sonic goodies and never treading the same territory twice. "Suffer Never" is New Order/The Smiths with an echoy snare drum, "Wake Up April" is a lethargic jazz lullaby, "Say Goodbye Good" is practically r&b gospel, "Feed the Night" hides Cole Porter and his acoustic in a shitty four-track, and "My Life Is at Home" simply sways you into the next dimension with its gorgeous, anthemic chorus. Pinnacle? "Become One Anything One Time," a song so packed with heartbreak and encouragements - not to mention disgustingly visceral melodies - that it knocked me out of the chair when I saw it performed on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. And somehow, in the midst of all the angles utilized on Wood/Water, The Promise Ring never bust out the distortion. Not once. So fuck you.

The final word? It sure as hell ain't "emo." Euphoric, daring, beautiful, just classic pop at its best. You and your sensitive-boy-with-Marshall-stacks can just suck it.
(2798 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026)


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