Blue October

Argue with a Tree...

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Recorded in their home state (but not their hometown of Houston) in 2004, Argue with a Tree... captures Texas rockers Blue October during an exuberant performance in front of a very enthusiastic Dallas crowd. In addition to being a live album, the two-disc set could also serve as a greatest-hits or career retrospective of sorts -- its sprawling playlist contains numbers from Answers, Consent to Treatment, and History for Sale, and the collection here represents enough of the band's material and sound to appeal to dedicated fans and newcomers alike. Argue with a Tree... is further helped along by a crisp recording that keeps the band front and center throughout, clear from troubles such as reverb or audience noise during songs. All of this works to Blue October's advantage, as it helps to highlight some fine performances from the band, particularly violinist Ryan Delahoussaye and guitarist Brant Coulter. While the two mostly concentrate on weaving understated, evocative accents into their songs, they do let loose at times, particularly when trading solos during "Italian Radio." Later on, Delahoussaye is granted a particularly impressive solo with the song "PRN," which he performs near the end of the album's second disc. Despite these many positive aspects, however, there are a few sticking points present on Argue with a Tree.... Throughout the album, vocalist Justin Furstenfeld's vocals border on aggressive and overwrought, at times sounding more spoken (or shouted) than sung, as on "Independently Happy" and "Calling You." Also, by presenting the entire concert instead of trimming it down to the strongest numbers, Argue with a Tree... begins dragging even before the conclusion of the first half. There's no doubt that the show itself was a success, judging from the cheers of the audience between songs, but the energy of the concert doesn't translate onto the album, and the initial energy from the opening tracks isn't sustained for long. While its breadth is ambitious, the album soon becomes overburdened; by the time Furstenfeld concludes the show with a haunting a cappella piece, it feels as if the music has lasted for a few days, not a few hours.

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