Open Hand
The Dream



by Brokenjewel USER (11 Reviews)
March 20th, 2010 | 8 replies

Release Date: 2003 | Tracklist

Review Summary: ”My shit sounds like...Failure, with Smokey Robinson singing. You should think about that.”

As ‘11th Street’, the fourth track of The Dream draws to a close, its last chord falling quickly to silence, there is the universally recognisable beep of an answer-phone message. The message is brief, with the singer/guitarist and founding member of Open Hand, Justin Isham, asking if the person is ‘around’, and then rather seriously informing the recipient that he has been ‘figuring *** out’. His obvious self-assuredness leads him to make the above claim, and quite a claim it is, too. While their commercial success was limited to say the least, Failure were a critically acclaimed alt rock outfit that earned a devout following during their short career. And Smokey Robinson is without a doubt one of the most iconic artists to ever point their lips at a microphone; countless appearances in film and television soundtracks meaning that even those unfamiliar with the name will recognise the music and flawlessly smooth tenor. So, the question is: can Open Hand live up to this claim" The answer, rather amazingly, is a resounding and very near ‘almost’.

Isham’s comparison with his own work and Failure’s is realistic, to a point; but where Failure were firmly alt rock with a dirty tinge of grunge adding a sulky adulthood to their songs, Open Hand are distinctly post-hardcore/emo, their music infused with a bright, punky adolescence. This vibrancy; this youthfulness, does not prove to be a hindrance, however, in the construction of their songs. In fact, for a debut album, there is remarkable potential displayed, with relatively complex song structures benefiting from a wonderful attention to detail. The interchange between the guitarists creates a constantly shifting vista that is often deeply atmospheric, occasionally bordering on the cleverly created textures of progressive music. Distinctive, dramatic and often refreshingly simple riffs rise and fall over driving chord progressions creating a powerful and consistent melodicism within the record; all of which is whisked along by the brilliantly energetic drumming which loses none of its power by being kept low in the overall mix. Even Isham’s claim to sound like Smokey Robinson is proven to be a useful comparison, his voice carrying with it an almost ethereal quality that allows him to soar above the music at times. And what he lacks in range compared to Robinson is more than made up for in the strength of his attack, which adds beauty and power to the predominately boy-loves-girl lyrics.

Sadly, the album is wildly unbalanced. The first half seems to display an almost obsessive attention to detail and the songs sound fully formed, albeit the work of a new band still finding their feet; but the latter half is much weaker, with songs containing nice ideas that seem disconnected from one another. Lush chords and sweet singing abound, but without the confidence and concentration of the first five songs. The Dream remains a missed opportunity, then: an album which begins with great promise but ultimately withers by the end. Open Hand proved to be far more consistent in their second full length offering, You and Me, but what at least half of The Dream can offer, to any emo or post hardcore fan, is an exceptional EP that so very nearly lives up to its creator’s description.

Recommended tracks:

In Your Eyes
Life As Is
The Dream
11th Street
This Is The End

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user ratings (31)

Comments:Add a Comment 
March 20th 2010


Nice, +1

edit/ I don't think I'll listen to this but your review was excellent.

Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2010


dude can write

Digging: Hot Chip - A Bath Full of Ecstasy

March 20th 2010


Thanks, dudes

March 21st 2010


Album Rating: 2.5

You and Me is 9,000 x the album this is. I tired going back to this once, and it was total crap.

March 21st 2010


I think it deserves the 'good' rating I gave it, but I agree that You and Me is far better. I've actually written a review for that and am waiting to put it up. Let me know what you think of it if you read it.

October 15th 2011


They sound like Failure but I don't hear the Smokey Robinson similarity. Also while the first 5 tracks are killer I don't think there is that much of a drop off in quality with the last 6 tracks.

November 25th 2012


the person leaving the message at the end is actually then future, now former drummer Paxton Pryor .

March 13th 2019


might have to listen to this for old times' sake

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