Review Summary: Claudio Sanchez continues to impress with his electro-pop sensibilities intermingling with his prowess for innovation along progressive lines.
It's always seemed to me that Claudio Sanchez has been a pop-minded genius in a progressive mastermind's clothing. Coheed and Cambria's best work (measured both in artistic content and public reception) has always revolved around catchy hooks, singalong choruses, and onomatopoetic chants, and I firmly believe that the group owe a lot of their commercial success to the approach. Hell, it's certainly been a breath of fresh air for a prog climate that often tends to feel dragged out and pretentious to experience a band that can take an innovative approach to things and still keep their sound "fun."
So, really, it should come as no surprise that Claudio has brought this sensibility and knack for combining pop and prog to his side-project, The Prize Fighter Inferno. Though his initial release, My Brother's Blood Machine
may have left the public a bit fooled by favoring folk-based, melancholic acoustic passages as much if not more than an electro-pop sound heard on other tracks, early 2010's somewhat overlooked Beaver Records EP
proved that Sanchez had upped the ante and pushed his solo work towards the more exciting and catchy outlook of tracks like "A Death in the Family" and "The Margaretville Dance." And if the two tracks on Beaver Records
seemed to indicate anything, it was that the electronics-based pop approach was something Claudio wanted to explore further through this project, and with a more upbeat tempo.
And so, Half Measures
delivers on those expectations from the opening glitchy-sounding electronic loops of "Elm Street Lover Boy," reinforcing the warmly familiar yet distinctly new and interesting approach with a build into distorted guitar rhythms, fluttering leads, and slides in and out of physical and electronic drums. Yet, each track on Half Measures
takes a different stab at the sound, with "The Simple Fix" applying an acoustic-based solution that flips the formula of electronics backed by real instruments on its head, while "Pistol Pete Matty" rides the electronics-first approach the whole way home at a slower tempo, and title track and album closer "Half Measures" brings the sound back to the folksy acoustic tone of My Brother's Blood Machine
. Of course, that's not to say the elements don't get muddled up in one another in the best of ways: "The Simple Fix" sounds all the better for the computerized phaser fire in the background and seamless transition to an electronic foreground, just as "Pistol Pete Matty" features an outstanding harmonica solo that simply makes the track.
Of course, the one common thread that really ties the entire album together is Sanchez's voice and his penchant for those pop-minded choruses, vocal hooks, and quirky, off-beat lyrical delivery. Lines like the "la la la la la la la" and "gimme gimme" of "The Simple Fix" will have listeners bobbing along instinctively, just as the chorus to "Elm Street Lover Boy" will have them singing along on just the second playthrough. It's clear that on Half Measures
, nothing is phoned in, and emotion has been carefully laced into each track, with, perhaps, "Half Measures" receiving the lion's share in building a framework far more melancholic than the rest of the album. This, too, should come as no surprise when reviewing the track's lyrical content, which appears to express sorrow over former Coheed band member Mic Todd, who robbed a Walgreens in mid-2011.
While it's fairly easy to write Half Measures
off as a relatively small collection of Claudio's electro-pop work, the tracks contained therein are enough to make it worthwhile and then some. Each track on Half Measures
is easily enjoyable as a single, but it's honestly impressive how well Sanchez is able to shift focus from one approach or sound to another without giving up flow and direction. And for a four track EP, that's downright exemplary, if a little expected from the Amory Wars mastermind. But no matter your musical taste on the rock-pop spectrum, The Prize Fighter Inferno has a real gem to offer, and your 2012 won't be complete without it.