Review Summary: A culmination of everything singer/songwriter Gavin Castleton has done in his career, this album soars, it shines, and it would make a pretty badass zombie movie.4 of 4 thought this review was well written
From the moment i heard this CD was being released, I decided I was going to review it. I have been a fan of Gavin's for a while, and almost everything he has been involved I have enjoyed greatly. That being said, the first time I listened to this CD I considered not reviewing it. Not because it was bad, but rather because I did not know if I could do the album justice as a reviewer. That being said after repeated listens I decided I had to review this album, as it is now 100% my favorite album EVER. Enough about me though, on to the album.
Simply put, "Home"
is Gavin Castletons masterpiece. A concept album telling the story of his relationship and break up with his ex girlfriend, except the break up is represented by a zombie attack complete with a car chase, hiding in a supermarket, and some army dude. And half the lyrics are written from the ex's point of view, complete with a female vocalist. Now i know based on that description, many of you are thinking this album is set up to be cliched and cheesy...now I should mention Gavin himself described the album as a "pop opera".
Well if you are here is where i justify the "classic" rating of this album. As cliched as the description sounds, this album is executed perfectly. Each track serves a purpose, there is no filler, nothing is overdone, but (if you know Gavin's music this is no surprise) nothing is dull or simple. Starting with "Bugguts"
, which at times almost has a lord of the rings sound track feel to it. Complete with french horns, a string quartet and Gavin's musical genius this song weaves and flows. The song lays out the plan for the rest of the album, a song that progresses and sometime will make you think "i can't believe this is the same song" but never having harsh transitions or anything too "out there". The next song, "Coffeelocks"
, begins the "love story" aspect of the album. Juke-box rock is basically the best way to describe it. The strings are a stand out, as are the vocal harmonies from both vocalists. Lauren Coleman makes her first appearance on the album on this track and suddenly the whole "girlfriends point of view thing" seems to be one of the best ideas of the decade musically. This song would've been a hit 50 years ago, and is absolutely beautiful. The intro of "Warpaint"
shows off Gavin's trip-hop influences, and as a very cool music trick, the only instruments on the intro are drums and a bass playing pinch harmonics. The song slowly morphs into a more melodic upbeat track. Throughout the song the song seems to be building, gaining steam, and just when you think the song should be ending (for fear of getting repetitive) the song's breakdown hits with soaring strings and synths. I could say the effect is nothing short of beautiful, but I feel that i have already used words of that nature too much already, and it's one of those parts that just needs to be listened to to be fully appreciated.
Excluding Bugguts, the first part of the story is divided into pairs of songs, the really poppy, upbeat songs first, then the more funky songs next, "Sugar on the Sheets"
being the first. From the first bass note that hits, this song just sounds funky. The song is just another example of the ability Gavin has to subtly change the song without losing the listener, but without dumbing anything down. While he uses this ability many times throughout the album, it is most apparent in this song as the verse are funky, the chorus's are almost ominous in tone, while the outro is goes from funk to dance. "Stampete"
starts with a guitar line that basically announces "this is gonna be funky". Then the synths come in and the verse starts, and you realize that this isn't just funky, its straight up "prince". Odd rhythms, synths everywhere, vocals reminiscent of Justin Timberlake at some points and probably one of the most epic, danceable outros to a song I have ever heard, this song is a must listen.
Now we begin the zombie attack portion of the story with "The Onslaught"
. An instrumental, reminiscent of Gavin's Gruvis Malt days,news reports in the background speak of all the normal "zombie" things, such as quarantine, chaos, etc. etc. The song is a perfect transition between the "lets dance" funky pop of the first part of the CD , and the, as you would expect, much darker second half. As "The Onslaught" fades out, the piano line to "The Walls Start To Give"
comes in. Lauren's voice really stands out on this track, which reminds me a bit of something from the Truman show soundtrack, except, more rock based. Gavin also has a very strong verse in this song, with one of my lyrical highlights from the album:
"I know you don't believe in god
But I do...
and he's not here with us"
The song still has somewhat of an upbeat sound at first, as their "love" is still intact but as the title suggests, things are beginning to go wrong. This song also is probably the best example I can find for the "pop opera" description, and that being said, it is not cheesy or cliche. In fact, its the opposite, you wouldn't even need to pay attention to a single word of the album to guess what the characters are feeling or thinking with how the music sounds and the words sung. Next up is "Layers"
which is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Featuring a beautiful piano line, the song features Gavin almost going back to his rapping, though he manages to squeeze some Justin Timberlake vocals in again. Lauren is strong again on this track, as she almost reminds me of eve in the song "You Got Me" by The Roots. This song also has some really cool progressions that serve to impress, and to help change the emotion of the song as the characters have their dialogue.
is a beast of a track. The first "only Gavin" song since Bugguts, its dark, its brooding, its having your girlfriend leave you for "some army dude" and then realize she forgot to close the hatch keeping the zombies out when she leaves. The subject matter is dark, the music is aggressive and dark, but not without melody. The lyrics are simply amazing, as anybody who has ever been left by a girl for another guy knows exactly what Gavin is feeling (with or without the zombies). This song is gold, everything is perfect, from the rough vocals in the bridge (I've seen blood and gore, and love turned war), to the drums mimicking the helicopter sound. Listen to this song. Now you can ask, where can you go from here? How bout a song that just has a feeling of friction, a Halloween like creepiness to it, and a really cool rhythm? "Red + Blue= Yella"
is something of new territory for Gavin. Going more towards harder rock (though he does manage to throw some lighter sounds in during the second verse) the song maps out the emotions one would feel after the events of "Unparallel Rabbits": Claustrophobia, Fear, Confusion, Depression. The next track "Oregon..."
will bewilder anybody who has ever heard a song by Gavin Castleton. Starting with just a drum beat and piano, the song once again has a "Truman show" vibe to it. The song builds into pure anger, complete with off-tune singing (but for some reason it works perfectly), growls, and as close to screaming as Gavin has ever been. The Song cuts off right at the climax, and while some may feel robbed of what could've been a really bad-ass "heavy" song (I was the first time), the cut off fits the rest of the album perfectly as the album continues to its next part.
Okay, so his girlfriend left him, Zombies attacked him, he is trapped in a storage room, he tries to commit suicide and the zombies break into the storage room as he does...What possibly could happen next to Gavin!? Could a pair of ladybugs save him and "tell him" to work for a happier ending to the story?! HECK YES! Complete with high pitched vocals for the..."lady bugs" "...Beetlemeet"
could be a joke, if it wasn't so good and catchy. The song is really simple, but beautiful, and catchy, i always find myself humming the harmonies of the line "when you're gone". As this song fades out, we are ready to begin the final conclusion of the story. "The Human Torch"
starts with a grand piano line, and when the rest of the band kicks in we are treated to a more upbeat track, but "different' then the upbeat feel of the beginning of the CD. The first "part" of this song for some reason reminds me of the song "Viva La Vida" by Coldplay for some reason. This song almost feels like three songs in one, as the changes from verse to verse can be somewhat drastic, especially when compared to the subtly of the rest of the album. There is not a dull moment in this song, and the out pour of melody never stops even with all of the changes. Any feelings of being robbed of a climax in "Oregon..." are dissipated as while this song isn't heavy and loud, it certainly is a musical climax of the melodic type.
Now while that is the end of the story, there is one more track, "Credits"
. "Credits" is a rather simple but cute track, basically poking fun at the idea of the whole concept behind the album with lines such as "there was no helicopter, there was no great escape...". The song is once again, beautiful and well composed, and somehow detaches itself enough from the main story of the album, both musically and lyrically, to not take away from the closing feeling of "The Human Torch".
This album is without a doubt, the best I have ever heard in my life. Its varied, the perfect length, and nothing is out of place. While others may not have the exact music tastes as I do, I doubt that anybody with an open mind towards music will find something in this CD that they enjoy. That being said, there is never a problem with the album being all over the place as there is a clear and cohesive idea that both the music and lyrics follow. The album closes with the lines "Home is not where you live, home is where you see yourself". Well then my home will have this album in rotation for decades to come.
Album Stream: http://play.rhapsody.com/gavin-castleton/home