Why Do You Do? (2005, Gringo Records)

In case you’re like me and had no idea who this band was, Soe’za are a six-piece, hailing from the UK. If you didn’t already know that they were British to begin with, you’d never guess from listening to them. They have a unique take on American indie/post-rock, with their two drummers, cello, french horn, and the singing styles of Jenny Robinson and Ben Owen. Why Do You Do? is their second full length album, and the first for Gringo Records.

Soe’za are definitely talented musicians, but it’s in the lyrical and singing departments where the chinks in their armor are revealed. Oftentimes, painfully so, such as the Owen-sung ‘Jack Jones’. What I fail to grasp is why even have him sing when you also have Jenny Robinson? On this particular track he sounds, oddly enough, like an indie-rock Brandon Boyd…with lyrics to match: “Oh I miss you/I love you so much/fuck the great spaces/and the Chicago songs”. Easily the album’s lowest point. Elsewhere, on songs like ‘Genuflect’ lyrics such as “in the iris of the last eyes/in the iris of the last eyes/could this be, the last lesson?/could this be, the last lesson?” (not the chorus, by the way) are sung with such importance that’s it’s a damn shame the lyrics aren’t very good. ‘Wounded Hounds and Their Treatment’ comes across as Change-era Dismemberment Plan, and is actually Ben’s best performance both singing-wise and lyrically. Hell, Ben even kinda looks like Travis Morrison.

Following up the worst song, ‘Jack Jones’, with the best song is an interesting sequencing choice. The Robinson-led ‘Downscale’ is a slower number that’s one of those songs where, after the first few seconds of listening to it, you’re hoping that they don’t find a way to fuck it up (they don’t). Here, Jenny comes across as a seductive jazz-lounge singer, over the band’s catchiest guitar line, and accompanied by Dan’s french horn. It’s really on the slower songs, in particular, that Jenny shines as a vocalist. She has enough restraint not to overpower the track with her presence, it’s just a shame that they don’t follow this path more on the rest of the album. On a few of her other songs I find myself focusing more on the music, rather than what she’s singing. I’m not sure if that’s a testament to the band’s performance or a knock against her singing.

‘They Glow at Night” starts off with a minute or so of instrumental goodness, then drops the ball by introducing vocals. This in itself is not that bad of a thing, but it does nothing to enhance the song and then about halfway through we’re ‘treated’ to the background shouts of “Hey, hey-hey!” and then Jenny sings nothing particulary interesting or melodic. More often that not I wish that they would adopt a less-is-more approach to their music. The song ends on a fast pace with the “hey, hey hey!”‘s intertwined with Jenny singing “Ahhhhh … Ahhhhhhh … Ahhhhh” and Ben singing “Eeeeeyyyyyyy”. Wholly unnecessary. As a matter of fact, singing for singing’s sake “Ahh”‘s, “La”‘s, “Da”, “Dunna”, “Dum”, and “Ooh”‘s appear on, I believe 5 or 6 of the albums 9 tracks. Even Ben Gibbard was wise enough to refrain from using “Ba Pa” on more than one song on Transatlanticism. The overabundance of this, to me, cements the idea that they should cut back on the song-writing.

Over the course of this album I found myself wishing that these songs were just instrumental and, 7 tracks too late, the instrumental ‘Length Of Rivers’ pops up to remind us that Soe’za could easily be a good instrumental post-rock band. They have a fantastic rhythm section and the french horn is a nice addition, but unfortunately they are just a decent indie-rock band. I would say that the lack of memorability to the majority of these songs is what’s working the most against them…well, i do remember some of the songs for not being particularly good, but that’s not the kind of memorability that they were going for.

mp3: Brackish Waters

-avant gardening 10/15/05

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