(Joseph Espiritu/Lariat Staff)
Stix and Stones is the debut album of local band Beyond Conception, and unfortunately, this shows in the album’s shortcomings.
The good news about this band’s first try is that it is a perfectly serviceable effort. The guitar work is fine, the piano and bass (Justin and Matt Abrams, respectively) are competent, and the drums (played by Clint Armstrong) sound…well, like drums. However, the album, which can loosely be described as your run of the mill rock, seems to lack any coherent theme or voice. Each single, while good, eventually adds to the album’s lack of momentum.
The album’s eponymous first track is especially out of place with the rest of the songs, with its rumbling guitar riffs (dual-teamed by Blake Kennedy and Justin Abrams) and tamborines giving way to the later tracks’ more subdued piano stylings. The band is at its best when it moves away from the tediously generic style of the first song, expanding it’s style with the slower, but better, middle of the album.
The Shoeshiner and Miles, especially, are the best songs on the album and effuse the listener with a mix of energy and relaxation after listening. The jazz/rock mix works well in these two songs, and while vocals are clearly not the band’s strong point, the instrumentals manage to close the gap very nicely.
Unfortunately, the energy of the early album fails to carry into the later tracks. A sort of lethargic repetition sets in at about the halfway mark, with each song giving less and less to distinguish itself from the others. By the end of the album, the listener is wondering how much longer is left.
While technically competent, Stix and Stones never manages to find a voice, and seems to be blundering through track after track. There is no sense of identity in the music, just a gaping emptiness. The album is perfectly, terribly average, and in the fierce competition of the Southern California music scene, this bodes ill for the band if they cannot manage to develop a distinct style. Hopefully, the group will have done so by their CD release performance on November 25 at The Coachhouse.