Review Summary: While still a very good listen, As the Roots Undo is not without its problems
Circle Takes the Square – As the Roots Undo (2004)
It has been 10 years since Circle Takes the Square released their proper debut album, and received near universal acclaim by critics and fans alike. When it was released early 2004, the group garnered a lot of praise and earned spots in many people’s albums of the year lists, and even popped up on several best of decade lists as well. With albums that have received the amount of acclaim as “At the Roots Undo” did, there is one question that often comes up, did it truly deserve it? The answer is both yes and no. Circle Takes the Square made a hell of an album, don’t get me wrong, but there are a few issues that to me, keep it from being seen as the classic many see it as.
The biggest issue that I caught glimpse of are the vocals. Guitarist Drew Speziale and Bassist Kathleen Stubelek share vocal duties, and while they do have a nice duo dynamic going on for much of the album, their screams can come off as overly shrill and rather annoying. Drew’s screeches are more of a target of my criticism, because to be quiet blunt, his screaming ability is rather mediocre for the most part. The best way to describe his screams are too high-pitched and throaty at their worst. Kathleen’s screams are better, but not by a large margin however. However, I have to give credit to Drew’s normal singing voice, as his vocal performance on this debut effort isn’t the best singing in the world, it is however, very fitting and usually has an appropriate tone to the rest of the song. The same can be said about Kathleen’s vocal ability, but there is really nothing incredibly notable about her vocals, but that’s exactly a negative thing, instead she gets the job done in that department. Another glaring issue is this album can sound way too frantic at times. Notable examples include the “opening” track “Same Shade as Concrete” and certain parts of “Kill the Switch”. There is no denying that the band definitely know how to play their instruments, and they can play pretty damn well too for that matter, but the sheer heaviness of certain sections of song can just be overwhelming and just sound like a wall of noise. Lastly, a smaller problem I have with this debut album is the way the band chose to open their debut effort. After the minute long intro track, the band jumps into the worst song, “Same Shade as Concrete”. While it’s not a terrible song by any means, but like I mentioned above, it is the worst offender of the franticness this album suffers through sometimes, especially in the tracks first half, and has some of Drew’s ugliest screams.
While I do have my fair share of problems with “As the Roots Undo”, I still believe this is a great album. The best feature this album has is the musicianship of the band mates. As mentioned before, Drew can play the guitar really well, and Kathleen showcases some nice bass ability throughout the album, and drummer Jay Wynne’s contributions are equally important to note as well. While keeping the sometimes overly frantic instrumentation in mind, on the “slower” songs, like “Interview at the Ruins” and “A Crater to Cough In” for example, the band’s true talents are more apparent, and the slower sections provide a very welcome break of the intensity the album often provides. As stated before, I also like Drew’s and Kathleen’s actual singing than their screams, but while they can be a little too much, they are not particularly bad, for the most part. For me the strongest track on “As the Roots Undo” would probably have to be “Non - Objective Portrait of Karma”, mostly for having some of the best instrumentation on the whole album and it’s very atmospheric sound in the first half of the 6 minute song.
When all is said and done, Circle Takes the Square’s first album is a rather enjoyable listen. Its franticness and vocals hold it back for me to see it as the classic many hold it as, I can see why it received the praise it did. I would recommend this LP to anybody that’s a fan of heavier music.
This review is kind of just like wow like kind of you kind of just say the same thing over and over again, well actually you usually say the same thing twice and wow there's like no sense of flow or like a point or anything you kind of just move on to the next thing you're saying and yeah goddamn
"their screams can come off as overly shrill and rather annoying. Drew’s screeches are more of a target of my criticism, because to be quiet blunt, his screaming ability is rather mediocre for the most part. The best way to describe his screams are too high-pitched and throaty at their worst."
See like here, you open the paragraph talking about the vocals of Drew and Kathy, but then you move on to a sub-point of just Drew right.
"Drew’s screeches are more of a target of my criticism, because to be quiet blunt, his screaming ability is rather mediocre for the most part."
I would avoid using the first person in a case like this, and try to avoid stuff like "because to be quite blunt" you don't need to use devices like this if your language is strong enough in the first place. Make a statement, and then back the statement up. You say his screaming ability is mediocre, but then you say it fits the music anyway, so there's no point really in mentioning his ability.
"The best way to describe his screams are too high-pitched and throaty at their worst."
This sentence doesn't flow very well and comes off as kind of a non-sequitor, I would just axe or incorporate the high pitched and throaty argument into the previous sentence
Like idk "Drew's screams are too throaty, high pitched, and they come off as shrill and annoying."