Review Summary: A very boring, same song over and over type of album with terrible production.
Remy Zero’s one footnote in music history will probably be for the fact they were responsible for the theme song to “Smallville”, with the U2-esque track “Save Me” off of their album “The Golden Hum”. After the minor success of this tune, the band disappeared off the face of the earth.
Having liked that album, and as a curious music listener I stumbled upon their self-titled debut at a used record store for a really cheap price. I was hoping to hear the same sound from The Golden Hum- a shimmering, soaring and catchy melding of the best elements of U2, Radiohead and Coldplay with a little bit of kick to it.
For anyone who’s familiar with ‘Save Me’, I’ll tell you right now that sound is almost nowhere to be found on this record, though there are hints of it here and there that would lay the foundation of this subsequent sound. Rather, Remy Zero the album is a very lo-fi alternative rock album.
The problem I have with this is album is that the songwriting is incredibly barebones and average, and with a few notable exceptions that I’ll discuss below, none of the music stands out after you listen to it. I can also confirm that this isn’t the type of album that takes a few spins to let it sink in, it’s just painfully mundane and damn, well… boring.
It’s frustrating because the album’s emphasis is easily atmosphere/sound over songwriting, and the part that gets me is when the band decides to put effort into the songwriting and not just play their instruments, it sounds absolutely brilliant. Nowhere is this near more apparent than track 5, “Twister”. Calling this song beautiful would be an understatement- it’s an effective and haunting acoustic love song that somehow manages to sound totally mainstream and ready for consumption on the radio, and yet sound completely original and fresh. If there was ever a song that could’ve become a big hit for the band, Twister would’ve been it.
I mentioned previously that this is a lo-fi album. What I mean by that is the album has a very low-tech sound to it, yet the band appears to want to use as many cheap sound effects to alter their instruments and the vocals. The opening track, “Temenos” is very catchy and is one of the more rocking songs here, but the scream at the beginning is painful- it’s been digitally altered to sound bizarrely robotic. Still, an otherwise sharp opener.
The only other noteworthy track I would recommend is “Gold Star Speaker”, which I can only describe as haunting. A gentle acoustic guitar begins the song with hushed vocals, and then coincides with a loud, distorted chorus. Towards the end, everything breaks down and there’s nothing left but a piano and the hushed vocals. Very effective and well done song- fans of Radiohead take note of this one.
Aside from those standouts, the album pretty much features the same slow acoustic strumming and low-budget production quality, and at 10 songs, you better expect those 10 songs to deliver, and the album simply does not. Every other song simply sounds the same, and it’s incredibly boring.
As I mentioned, the band tries to spice things up with some weird distortion effects peppered throughout, but it doesn’t help, as the cheapness of the production only proves to be distracting, and it simply doesn’t help the album sound as raw as it wants to be.
If you’re interested in listening to Remy Zero, I’d highly recommend either one of their two other albums, “Villa Elaine” or “The Golden Hum”, as they feature much better production quality, and more importantly, better songs. At least the album cover is cool (neat tornado!).
Definitely download Temenos, Gold Star Speaker, and Twister.