Gatsbys American Dream (hereby GAD) exploded onto the scene with their 2003 release, Ribbons and Sugar
. With it's lack (extreme lack) of choruses, odd time signatures in most songs, and being extremely catchy even with not so many hooks, it was a very different release in the genre of pop-punk, and caught the attention of many major record labels. GAD as a band was (and still is) very weary of major labels, and how they play the scene. With the labels demanding choruses and hooks by the truckloads in exchange for a record deal, GAD retreated and made a proverbial "*** you" to the major labels with In The Land of Lost Monsters EP
Gatsbys American Dream is:
Nic Newsham - vocals
Bobby Darling - guitars
Rudy Gajadhar - drums
Kirk Huffman - bassist
GAD retreated to Fearless records and released their next LP, Volcano in 2005. The central theme is human emotions and how they are as unpredictable as a volcano. They explore the stories of ancient Rome ("Pompeii"). Also, being GAD, there is numerous literary references rooted in the album. "Fable" has most of it lyrics that tie in pretty deep with William Golding's classic, The Lord of the Flies
(which is quite easy to see if you've ever read the book and hear the lyrics.) The songs "The Giant's Drink" and "Speaker for the Dead" are based off of Orson Scott Card's novel, Ender's Game
. Most of "The Badlands" lyrics come from JRR Tolkien's epic, Lord of the Rings
. "Meet Me At The Tavern in Bowerstone" is based off of the game Fable
In all honesty, as much as GAD hates the music industry, there is a huge introduction to choruses on this album. The single (I assume it's the single, there's a video for it) "Theatre" boasts a catchy as hell choruses, even though everytime the chorus comes around they do something differently with it. The first time around it's very short, the second time around, most of it is palm-muted. But none the less, I think the record labels did have an impact on them, as there is a lot more choruses on this album than there previous, Ribbons and Sugar
, whose songs had a knack for not having choruses.
Set against the mountainside
And oh the hubris burns so bright
But more will burn tonight
I'll bury this town in ash
And paint the sky with fire
The city is burning
I'll tear down the walls
I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha uh huh
And there's nothing in the dark I won't bring to light
And I will bury you
They'll dig you up in 1500 years
The metaphors in Volcano run rampant, and they are extremely fantastic, deep and thoughtful. "Pompeii" is obviously a song about the volcano Vesuvius that erupted and buried the city Pompeii in ash and flames. "The Guilt Engine" seems to be a song about a man wanting to explode over how he's acted in the past, finding that he hates himself for it. "The Giant's Drink," arguably the catchiest song on the whole album, is about giving up your dreams and such. The song "The Badlands," a revamped version of the song previously on In The Land of Lost Monsters EP
is all about the fall of the humans played through the fall of dinosaurs.
If there is one thing that GAD does best in pop-punk, it's playing their instruments. Every player of GAD is a phenomenal player at their respective instruments, and no one overdoes their spot in any song. The drummer throws in many odd fills and has a very jazzy feel to his drumming, but never does he loose the song, being the main backbone of the rhythm. Kirk Huffman as a bass player throws some very nice basslines in pretty much every song, choosing to not follow the guitar and lay down a foundation with extremely smooth basslines, and never getting out of line. And last, but not least, is the frontman, Bobby Darling. He creates many extremely good riffs throughout the whole album. Never once does a song feel stale or repeated, and never does it sound like just the same old boring chord progression you've heard a million times in a million different songs.
GAD also has an extremely good knack in striking gold in their songs. Whether it be Nic's voice rising above everything in the final bombastic chorus of "The Giant's Drink," the beautiful acoustic bridge in "Shhhhhhh! I'm Listening to Reason," or the ending of the songs "The Badlands" and "Speaker for the Dead," GAD has a nose for natural beauty in songs. Nic's voice, while not being that incredibly original sounding, seems to have a lot of emotion behind it, and doesn't overdo his voice trying to hit some note he knows he can't hit, or just singing out of key period. His vocals complement the rest of the band extremely well, and is the driving force of GAD next to Bobby's fingerwork.
Even with all the plus sides, there is one thing about this album that annoys me more than anything possibly could. And that, my friends, is track 8, "Meet Me At The Tavern in Bowerstone." In essence, there is nothing wrong with the song, I love it. And that's the problem with it. It's 28 seconds long, and sounds like an unfinished idea that GAD threw in there (maybe they did it just to piss everyone off). It annoys me to no end everytime I hear it because the song sounds like it has so much ***ing potential to be one of the best songs on the album.
This album, in my opinion, is right on par with Ribbons in Sugar
writing and musicianship wise. The writing style of their songs seems to have changed between these two LP's, with more choruses and a few hooks on this album. Regardless, GAD still proved that they weren't going to suck up to the record industry and decided to do what they wanted to do most, and that was make music of their choice and not be pushed around just to be the next big thing. If you are any fan of pop-punk or indie-rock or anything of the sorts, I definitely recommend that you pick this up.
Shhhhhhhh! I'm Listening to Reason