Review Summary: A small, melodic gem in the wash of Mid-90's emo records.
The indie-emo scene of the mid to late 90's had quite a large batch of excellent bands, but few were around long enough to make a substantial discography, and sometimes weren't even substantial in the underground. Mid-western pioneers Cap'n Jazz made a rather large impact in the underground years later, thanks to their full discography released on Jade Tree records. To a smaller extent, even PA band Elliott were able to release a few important Eps before disbanding. Ethel Meserve contemporaries, Bells on Trike didn't stick around enough to make a large impression, but their single 10" was one of the better releases at the time.
Melody was always driving the band and it shows with the often simple, and clean guitar riffs that drove the band on songs like "I Drive", which begins with an almost dream-like intro of guitar and bass dynamics that’s repeated several times in the song. Like most bands, the vocals are low in the recording, and minimal. However they still manage to be equally important due to the very emotional way they write and play. Of course, singer Bryan Hoffa is no vocal expert, but the point is that the vocals fit well with the often minimal musical technicality to create their musical harmony. Hoffa preforms best when the band is melodic; when the band goes into slightly heavier rhythms, his vocals become much hoarser than the usual band's screams, so they sometimes become dull when pushed with the potentially powerful, instrumentation.
Ahh but this band carves out some of the most beautiful melodies I've heard. Spread out across the record, guitar and bass are woven together and help keep the melody soulful, and often powerful. Their melodies picture the emotions perfectly, and go hand-in-hand with minimally written lyrics like "we're not getting younger" and "tell me what I haven't done/is it wrong"" The minimal vocals and the melodic yet, still often powerful instrumentation might give the impression of a post-rockesque feel, but the band’s melodies are usually too short and to the point. They stay soulful and emotional through that simplicity, instead of trying to avoid extended melodies and progressions. During the opening of the beautiful "Appartus Must be Earthed", the instrumentation, especially the bass work, give a very interesting earthy vibe, which soaks right in with their un-distorted guitar work.
The aforementioned drum work is actually the most chaotic point of focus on the record. Brimming with cymbal crashes and such it keeps the melodic side from going too lush, and helps the chaotic side keep a slightly hidden, but ever present beat. Unlike bands who used deep bass rolls to keep the music at sugar-high levels of adrenaline, Bells were more interested in high level cymbal crashes to actually give some chaos. Because Trike was more interested in melodies, than high energy via' Cap'n Jazz.
So with all things considered, the band was a trademark mid 90's band which could have been part of their demise and further unintrest in the band. While all these band made great music, there were so many bands at such a short time. So it was hard to keep track of them and even let the bands make an extended discography. This self-titled 10" gem was the band's only, and it is often swept away in the many similiar releases by similarly excellent bands.