A Hostage and the Meaning of Life

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In the early years of the 21st century, many young men became disillusioned with the existing conventions of emo and post-hardcore, and burned their band T-shirts in protest. The flames of discontent sparked inspiration, and soon a new class of rockers arose. Bound to collective influence (the teachings of past masters like Sunny Day Real Estate and At the Drive-In) yet anxious to expand, these sonic splinter cells strove to take post-everything in a progressive direction, to wrest complacency from Warped hands. Keyboards were the answer! And impenetrable, vaguely intellectual lyrics streaked with melancholy! New cadres emerged in the ashen sunlight. Coheed & Cambria, one was called. "Light a Match, for I Deserve to Burn!" another cried with an oath. Early in 2004, another group of Young Turks took to the shining path. Armed with Korgs, Moogs, guitars, and their own emphatic and opaque gospel ("In logic you will find [transformation]," "The monolith stands in a darkening shadow," "I see tongues of fire upon our heads"), Brazil broke free of their Indiana bonds, and gave the world A Hostage and the Meaning of Life. Their padding of the traditional template with keyboards and occasional horns -- not to mention Jonathon Newby's righteous sermons, delivered in a willowy falsetto -- suggested Brazil's shared brain was clouded by too many ideas. But, like their peers in those other dizzying bands across the land, they felt too many was better than just one, or the same. The driving energy of "We" bore that out, as did the moody, piano-led shuffle of "Fall Into." "Metropol" turned that track's quiet earnestness on its ear, letting Brazil's various quadrants drift into prog introspection before uniting them all in rewarding rock chorusing (and check out that sax solo!), and the album's initial portion was crammed with engaging guitar arrangements chopped up and reconfigured for maximum rockingness. This was Brazil's enticement to the dull masses, to those unlucky enough to miss the King Crimson baptism they themselves enjoyed. While it often lost itself in rapturous blasts of guitar, or unwound messily in a search for more ambitious songwriting dynamics, Brazil promised to keep A Hostage and the Meaning of Life accessible enough for the unpurified, or at least the easily distracted. There was no indication whether Brazil and the others' revolution of erudition and cacophony would even work. And sometimes their rhetoric just sounded ridiculous. But their earnestness was admirable, and helped to fan the flames.

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