Blast From The Past: Elliot – False Cathedrals

I have been toying around with the idea of doing a “Blast from the Past” entry for a little while now.  There are countless albums I love to go back to, and they really don’t have to be all much in the past.  My college years were some of my best for discovering some of my favorite albums of all time.  My freshman year of college I was averaging sometimes two to three shows a week.  Really, looking back at that time, I get a little misty eyed since I haven’t been to a show in months. (Actually my last show was in October and it was Matt & Kim)  So, if you look through my Ipod you’ll see countless defunct or dying bands that haven’t done anything for years, but I still can’t help but put them on every once in a while.  I would hope I’m not the only one with this little dilemma.

I’m sure some of you wouldn’t call Elliott a huge blast from the past.  This actual album was put out in 2000, so this release only clocks in at slightly over a decade old.  It still wouldn’t surprise me if some people have managed to forget just how great an album this release was. There was definitely a few years after college that I didn’t have this album at all. Elliot put out four albums in their fairly short career of producing music together.  They formed in 1995 and managed to release their full length debut, U.S. Songs, in 1998.   U.S. Songs was well received; however, it is False Cathedrals that managed to solidify Elliott as an Indie/Emo staple.  Yes, they most certainly did have some very apparent Emo tendencies, and I am not afraid to admit having enjoyed emo. (I even saw Dashboard Confessional live, and I sang along) After the release of False Cathedrals, Elliott did lose two of its members which greatly affected their sound.  Their final release, aside from their post-break-up best of album, Songs in the Air was a well received and mostly a well liked album; however, it did not receive the same acclamation as False Cathedrals.  The new additions had managed to take some of the edge off their sound.  This was something that some fans were unwilling to bend on, but the album still managed to have great success.

The album “False Cathedrals” opens with an ambient track that almost sounds like a children’s choir with accompanying the music.  If you are unfamiliar with the band at all, it leaves you wondering what it is you are about to listen to. This however connects seamlessly into the first real song on the album: “Calm Americans”.  For me, this is probably the greatest song combo on the whole album. Unfortunately, my Ipod does not do the lead in as seamlessly as I would like, but it is still a great combination of songs.  Lead singer Chris Higdon opens the track with his extremely soft vocals.  The vocals at first are so soft I remember being really concerned I wouldn’t like this album; however, when the drums and bass line come in, they sound so good I was willing to keep going.  Higdon manages to quickly break out of his soft vocals and really lets his voice ring out.  Higdon has this amazing ability to go from very soft and subdued vocals to very loud, but not screaming, vocals.  They really manage to produce the perfect sound, although I think they are very indicative of the emo genre.  This first song has a perfect blend of driving guitars, piano, drums, and bass.  The bass line is a driving force throughout the entire thing that helps to create one of the best songs on the whole album.

Elliott had the ability to create amazingly powerful songs without over doing it.  “Blessed by Your Own Ghost” is a more reflective song, and yet, still manages to be incredibly powerful.  Higdon’s effortless and beautiful vocals are at the forefront of the song, but once again, it is the bass and drums that drive the song.  It has a truly haunting quality to it.  Elliott managed to continuously compose songs that weren’t entirely intricate, but could really get stuck in your head and stay there for days.

“Drive on Me” is a great example of how this band could turn on and off their emo qualities.  The song starts off with the very emo vocal line; however, after the first verse, it breaks into a great rock chorus that drives the song along.  The verses come back in with the guitars dropping completely out to once again bring back the emo quality.  However, those drums once again help bring the rock back in on the chorus.  This song may be a great example of my freshman year music tastes; of course, that was when I wasn’t listening to hardcore and metal.

Elliott, in my opinion, is a band that didn’t last long enough.  They really only put out three significant releases in their short existence, but they were really developing their sound over time.  True, they were basically part of a style of music that had its fifteen minutes of fame, but had they stayed together, I think they would have continued to develop their sound to stay relevant.  I could be completely wrong.  Other bands from this time period have struggled to reach the same glory they achieved in the heyday of emo.  Both Saves the Day and The Get up Kids struggled to survive outside of emo and had only marginal success.  I, however, would like to believe that things would have been different for this band.  Alas, I suppose we will never know.

Teacher Grade: A+

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