Review Summary: A really tiring, emotionless acoustic album lacking the allure that made VAST special in the first place.
There once was a time when a ‘band’ named VAST had a little-known track called Touched in a movie soundtrack. Once upon a time, VAST’s hit single Free was getting major airplay on MTV. Once upon a time, Jon Crosby still had a special, distinguishable voice. But, who am I kidding? This was once upon a time. Back in the days of Visual Audio Sensory Theater and Music for People, VAST was touring as the opening act for bands like Queens of the Stone Age; taking advantage of their stages to the fullest. Filling their stages with moving monitors, flashing screens, and a very passionate vocalist.
Fast forward to 2007. Things have changed for VAST. Not in a good way, either. Once, a strange, dark Gothic rock band, VAST has become a ‘good ol’ boy’ cowboy band headed by Jon Crosby, who has gained a massive amount of weight. Losing passion live, it seems. Playing small bars. Once again, times have been rough. Major labels? No way. How about an independent record label? That dark, enveloping dark vibe (think classics like Pretty When You Cry) is all gone. Instead, Crosby’s sitting around with an acoustic guitar. Wailing his heart out to one of the most tight-knit and dedicated fanbase in music, with his ever-failing voice seeming more trite than it did in Turquoise and Crimson.
Welcome to April.
Ah. I’ve been waiting for VAST’s latest album, April. For a very long time. Things quickly spiraled downward leading up to April's release, though. After the ‘internet only’ release of April’s unfinished version, fans got angry. The unfinished version was pitiful. Seemed barely pieced together and ridiculously boring, VAST’s future began to look increasingly bleak. Where’s the dark vibes? A freaking acoustic album? Darn right. That’s how Crosby likes it. Their most successful and excellent albums, Visual Audio Sensory Theater and Music for People kicked serious tail. That dark vibe was enveloping and, well, addicting. I absolutely loved it. After a full listen through April’s retail version, I am, well let down by Crosby and company.
Since when is VAST folk? April. Definitely a radical change for VAST, yes. Successful? No. No doubt in my mind many fans will be turned away by the utter blandness of April. The tracks leave very little emotion on the table, all sound alike, and form for an utterly boring album. Secondly, Crosby’s voice has lost that charm it once had. His voice is indistinguishable from any other rock vocalist out there. Besides gaining 50+ pounds, Crosby’s lost his live passion. The live performances lost their vibrant, interactive performances (mostly because of low budget), and Crosby sings without any passion. At all. He doesn’t even look a thing like he used to, but that’s not the problem. His voice? Absent. His passion? Absent.
Most of the tracks sound alike. They’re pretty tough and challenging to distinguish from one another, and the acoustic guitar gets frustrating by the end. The music is pretty repetitive and lacks emotion. That dark vibe that once made VAST stand out is gone. And the biggest thing I miss here is the chanting of Visual Audio Sensory Theater. Turquoise & Crimson added some chanting and a strange middle-eastern tone, and I liked the more cryptic style the band was heading towards; but that's all turned around with April. Most of the tracks are pretty forgetful as well. There’s not a stand-out track on here, other than, perhaps Dedicate (A Place for Me). Most of the tracks lack an identity, climax, and seem to be consistently going in circles.
Ten years in, VAST (more or less, Jon Crosby) have hit a brick wall in their career. We’ve had an immediate stop in quality. Crosby’s waining health, loss of individuality, loss of gothic allure, and how boring the album is makes it quite a tough and challenging listen the whole way through. Crosby tried to make April an emotional classic, but got so lost in the ‘swing of things’, that he forgot what made the band so dang alluring in the first place. If I wanted to hear some emotionless singer wail above repetitive acoustic guitar chords, I’d put a Clay Aiken album in my player. There's always Visual Audio Sensory Theater and Nude (and Turquoise & Crimson) to help pass the time, and I can only hope the next try will be better.