Blue October

History for Sale

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Blue October's website describes at length the band's dogged perseverance in the wake of its unceremonious dismissal from Universal in 2001, detailing the extensive touring, soul-searching, and hard work that led to Blue October's latest set, History for Sale. But while History was originally issued through Dallas indie Brando, it now bears the imprint of and is distributed by the very label whose callousness supposedly led to the LP's creation -- that's right, Universal. The U-turn sees the release of History in a remastered, majors-friendly version. It also puts the rarefied pop of "Calling You" next to Foo Fighters on Universal's soundtrack for American Wedding. Stylistically, History for Sale isn't much different from 2000's Consent to Treatment. Furstenfeld's voice still suggests a Midwestern Peter Gabriel or a less sanctimonious Ed Kowalczyk, while his band works a sound inflected with both indie rock and populist post-alternative grooves. The aforementioned "Calling You" is a by-the-numbers modern rock radio ballad, dressed up with processed vocals and an anthemic melody that's more hopeful than much of History's material. Elsewhere, Furstenfeld is dour, bitter, and even vengeful. He dwells angrily on religion and his youth in "Razorblade," and delivers a rant to a lover in the first-person, Archers of Loaf-style screed "Sexual Powertrip." "Yeah, you opened your legs and maybe I promised you," he sings. "You didn't notice that my ankles were crossed." But while both tracks feature screeching guitars and cathartic uses of the F word, there's something missing beneath Furstenfeld's volatility. It's almost as if the band felt that a heavier sound was needed to justify the words, but couldn't quite muster the wherewithal to pull it off. Blue October is more convincing on the insistent surge of "A Quiet Mind," the low-key lullaby "3 Weeks, She Sleeps," or "Inner Glow," which seamlessly blends earnest lyricism, guitar, and the violin of Ryan Delahoussaye. While the inherent emotion in Blue October's music proves to be a solid guide wire for these later tracks, History for Sale too often seems diluted, or perhaps confused about its direction. Whether this is a result of its tumultuous shuffle between labels is unclear, but this persistent vagary prevents the album from truly succeeding.

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