Review Summary: Though he is now the last member in the band, Jeff Scheeweis proves he can handle things himself.’I’ve got to figure out why the world is so big’
, passionately declares Jeff Schneeweis during lead single “Forest”. Number One Gun’s lone remaining member is like a man plagued by a new realization; it’s as if he believes that his existence is miniscule in the grand scheme of things. Jeff is just now beginning to grasp his role in the universe, and with that same feeling applied to his own life, the singer begs an unseen force in “Hey Stanger": ’Don’t erase my life / don’t erase my life!
. The man appears to be afraid and troubled. The walls of his life are coming down all around him. What’s worse, something or someone is causing it too; something that could very well hold his life in its very hands. This urgency drives the one-man project on fourth album To Secrets And Knowledge
. Though it does fall victim to a weak second half, Jeff Schneeweis’ new album houses some of Number One Gun’s strongest songs yet.
Jeff’s voice can be compared to that of Anberlin’s Stephen Christian: it’s soft, earnest, and versatile--hard and driving during the more energized tracks and reflective and soothing in the slower acoustic numbers. With a delicate, honest tone the singer philosophizes on short, acoustic track “The People”, '…enclave your bodies for money to buy freedom
.' Jeff really comes across as believable and sincere--qualities that seem to be on the verge of extinction in the pop punk genre. Elsewhere, he steps up his intent and drive on the choruses of “The Victory” and highlight “Big Machine”; what start as reflective, emotional verses embedded in digitalized effects and jingles, soon step up the guitar distortion for the main resounding chorus hooks. Jeff’s range isn’t limited to one select feel or tempo. Because of this, his songs typically avoid any polar vocal problems or awkward pronouncements; he generally keeps thing lucid and genuine.
After the self-realization of “Hey Stranger”, things take a drop in consistency. “The People” and “White Lies” do showcase Jeff’s soothing, almost naked vocal approach at its best, however, when listened to in context of the more energized first half of the album, the two tracks come way too sudden and without warning. Switching the track order to space out the two acoustic numbers would have greatly aided this problem. What hurts things ever more so for this section of the album is instrumental “Look To Pass” that follows closely after the two ballads. Instrumentals can be a dodgy, often unnecessary inclusion, and given there’s only ten songs on To Secrets And Knowledge
--counting a Journey cover--one has to wonder if the songwriter was just running low on ideas. “Try It” ironically tries to pick things back up, and for what it’s worth, almost does, but a cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” ruins its mission. The main issue that I have with the cover is that it hardly ever deviates from the popular hit in its execution. Some may find this appealing, but as such, one has to wonder if its inclusion on the album is all that necessary as it doesn’t add anything new to the song at all.
Who says two is better than one? Jeff Schneeweis may be the last member left in Number One Gun, but that doesn’t mean he can’t write some competent pop punk songs. Sure, the lone singer still has some consistency issues to work on as far as song quality and structuring goes, but To Secrets And Knowledge
does happen to contain some of the project’s best songs so far--“Big Machine”, “Forest”, and “Secrets”. Jeff gives evidence that he’s being plagued by questions of reality, as he reveals in Noises,’I’m just asking if you’re just asking / Are you talking to me? / Cause I can’t hear a thing but noises, sweet noises.’
Keep up that search, Jeff--you'll eventually find the answer to your questions, and along the way, you'll probably write music that just gets better and better with each subsequent release as well.