Review Summary: With rock-and-roll and plenty of heart at its core, the first installment of Space's two-part LP indicates anything but a sophomore slump.Exit Strategies
is the first half of Space's split LP - divided into this EP and the forthcoming Second Variety
EP - and is unabashedly rock-and-roll at heart. It goes without saying that Extended Plays have an important role in music - at press time, countrymen The Red Paintings
have released strictly EPs in their discography - but sometimes EPs receive a lot of flak or go unnoticed because they're perceived to be poor B-side material. This is not the case with this five-track-strong release, which delivers Space's characteristically-melodic sound heard on his debut When Clouds Align
, but with a swifter tempo and more guitar-driven gusto.
Previously, Space was responsible for every instrument on When Clouds Align
(save for drums, whose duty was split by T-Bone of Kevin Martin & The Hiwatts
and Steve Clark of Memento
) as well as its production. While still the master craftsman in the mixing studio, Space is flanked by Jeff Bowders and Jeff Morrice for the Exit Strategies
sessions. Many of you may recognize these two gentlemen - Bowders performs with Paul Gilbert
(who doesn't love the intro to "Scarified?"), teaches at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California, and has published/filmed manifold instructional book/CD/DVD packages for drums, while Morrice most recently played for Driveblind
. Together with Space, they form a cohesive, rock-solid trio, with Exit Strategies
showcasing a rich, vibrant sound.
One of Exit Strategies
' many strengths is in its introductions. Album opener "Disaster" begins with "Well, you try so hard, try so hard to get on your feet . . . but you feel so helpless," sings Space in his suave dialect over a nifty main riff and a steady rhythm section. At the pre-chorus, Space's resonant upper-register vocals are complemented by slick bass runs from Morrice. The same can be said for the edgy, mercurial title track, which is arguably the best intro on record. As a whole, Exit Strategies
effortlessly segues from each track to the next, making for a seamless, uniform listen. Its transitions are so smooth, the tracks seemingly bleed into one another - for instance, take the decrescendo of "Disaster" juxtaposed with the opening feedback and main riff of "Exit Strategies" to notice such an effect. These subtle, intricate characteristics found on the five-track EP yield a consistently refreshing listen.
Space is also impressive in having easily-discernible, highly-relatable storytelling in his lyrics. For example, in "Exit Strategies," he begins, "It's just like any other day - I keep runnin' on my way - well, I'm too scared to face this world on my own . . . I've given all I need to give right now, I'm running on empty" before asking, "So why do good things turn out bad, just like the love I knew I had?" In these passages, Space instills his personal take on the get-up-and-go grind of everyday life combined with the pragmatics of his immediate and not-so-immediate surroundings. We've all felt the pressure from bosses, coaches, teachers, and the like to work hard, harder, harder
and contribute more, more, more
, that we lose sight of the things that are most important in our lives. "I'll be my own worst enemy," he declares over acoustic guitar in the song's bridge, before Bowders, Morrice, and distorted guitar rip into the song's brilliant chorus. Exit Strategies
' title track is a quintessential rock-and-roll cut: from Morrice's picked notes in the verses to Bowder's faithful, ardent drumming in the choruses, all three musicians coalesce to create a tremendous song.
"Invaders" begins with a slower tempo compared to the first two tracks, but picks up speed at the song's chorus. Taking on the perspective of a paranoid schizophrenic ("I heard a voice in my head - it said, 'Today's the day that everything is going away' - I think my head needs some glue" . . . "They're coming, they're coming, they're coming out from the sky"), the track kicks off with a celestial theme before Space's clean guitar progression takes over. The song's solo is very good, but pales in comparison to album highlight's "Do You Feel Naked?" delay-laden solo. "Do You Feel Naked?" is an absolutely stellar cut, with an excellent clean guitar intro. "In this here box, I hold the tiniest of dreams - I'm molding you, shaping you into a mound of gold / Collapsing from within, the box I held, the dream I had is now a memory, was never meant to be," Space sings over his first riff, before imploring, "How can I fight the one I defend?" The sound that Space, Morrice, and Bowders attain is stunning, and Morrice's bouncing bass lines truly spring to life. Another highlight heard in "Do You Feel Naked?" is the layered, harmonized vocals in the final chorus.
closes with "Coma," which sports a somber tone akin to "Just Breathe In" from When Clouds Align
. The atmosphere that permeates behind Space's acoustic guitar is intoxicating, as are his vocals when he sings, "Misdirection will pull you down / This invention will make you drown, but I'll let you go, I'll let you go." As the keys and electric guitar start to seep in, the ambiance continues to swirl around in both channels, bolstered by the harmonized vocals. "Coma" is a phenomenal closer, which will hopefully segue perfectly into the second half of Space's LP, entitled "Second Variety."
With rock-and-roll at its core, the first installment of Space's two-part LP indicates anything but a sophomore slump. Exit Strategies
expounds on the developments of When Clouds Align
(see: "Coma," "Invaders") while forging an edgier rock-and-roll kick with exorbitant amounts of sing-along ready choruses ("Exit Strategies," "Disaster," and "Do You Feel Naked?") and a steadfast rhythm section. While it's a bit of a tease to split one LP into two EPs, new material is better than no material at all, and the musicianship and heart found from Space, Morrice, and Bowders on Exit Strategies
cannot be overstated.
Jom recommends, in order:
Do You Feel Naked?
To stream the entire EP, click over to: