Review Summary: North Carolina's most under-appreciated sons at their spittle-inducing finest.
The world is filled with criminally under-appreciated bands. While there are myriad reasons for such unrealised notoriety, there is a prominent formula for perpetually flying under the radar – dancing to your own tune. Humans like neat little boxes. When a band comes around that doesn't fit snugly into their pre-ordained little box, people tend to revert to angry cavemen, flinging the band aside with simian disdain and confusion, sprinting back on all fours towards the comfort of familiarity. I'm not talking about bands that break new ground or embrace weirdness for its own sake – these bands inevitably become darlings of the music press because they provide a new avenue for vicarious trendiness. I'm talking about bands that play the music they love with considerable skill and passion, but bands that are consigned to obscurity because the music they love happens to be horribly incongruous with current public aural preoccupations. These are the anachronisms. These are the black sheep. ASG happens to be one of them.
ASG (which stands for whatever catches the band's fancy on any given day) are a four-piece band from North Carolina that have been churning out quality albums for the majority of the last decade. While their sound has subtly evolved since their 2002 début, there have been certain constants – most notably, an amazing knack for melody, groove and energy. If you had to describe their unique sonic blend, it would probably fall somewhere between punk and stoner rock, but seldom does anything they produce sound derivative. Indeed, when asked to describe their sound themselves, the band merely replied, "We’re definitely not emo." Ultimately, ASG sound very much like ASG, and Feeling Good Is Good Enough
, their 2005 release, represents the stand-out in their impressive catalogue thus far.
Right from the off, the album grabs you by the gentlemen's (or ladies') bits and doesn't let go. Every track is anchored by a groove-tastic riff which would make Tony Iommi green and that makes sure that even the of deficient of the attention deficit can stay engaged. Verses are either frothing punk rock affairs or emotion-laden sludge-fests which never fail to conjure up some sort of synaesthetic mental texture to complement the tunes. Where ASG really shine, however, is with their ability to sniff out a killer chorus hook without ever sounding inappropriately poppy or trite. After a morning listen to this album, I can guarantee a head filled with echoes of "John Wayne" or "Feeling Good Is Good Enough" for the rest of the day. It is for this very reason why it seems ridiculous that ASG remains so anonymous; very few tracks would sound out of place blaring from your radio. There really is little abstruse or abrasive about ASG. They just play music which isn't particularly fashionable and suffer accordingly.
Slobbering praise for the band and this album, however, can't remain unchecked. There are a couple of shortcomings which shouldn't be glossed over. Firstly, as might have been inferred while reading the previous paragraph, ASG do have a definite formula on Feeling Good Is Good Enough
. A winning formula, no doubt, but a formula nonetheless. The most significant consequence of this, of course, is a lack of any great musical variety on the album. Some changes in tempo notwithstanding, the album is largely homogeneous with regards to both mood and dynamics. That said, if you enjoy the formula as much as I do, this is unlikely to be a huge problem. Secondly, there are one or two tracks, such as "Thirsting For More" and "Cracks In The Sky", which border on filler; tracks that have dulled verses or blunted choruses and lack the same punch as the rest of the album. While this normally wouldn't be such a big deal, the unfortunate concentration of these filler tracks towards the end of the album creates a horns effect which affects the overall impact.
Such criticism ultimately equates to nitpicking however, and in no way dampens my glowing recommendation of this album. ASG don't produce anything thought-provoking or paradigm-smashing. They produce, at its core, nothing more than top-quality, head-bobbing rock which is indisputably their own and which doesn't sound exactly like anything else out there. Perhaps if they did sound like somebody else, they'd have a box to comfortably nestle in and hordes of fans. Music isn't always fair that way.