It's a touch surprising to hear an American band in 2007 that sounds like one of any number of U.K. bands back in the late '90s who wanted some of Radiohead's commercial pixie dust to rub off on them, even as that band was starting to figure out ways to jettison its older approach for something else again. Either time has gone through a loop and civilization is rapidly approaching a singularity point, or else current culture is even more of a cut-and-paste job than before. And so "Taking the Fall" mixes up demi-falsetto from frontman Adam Remnant and bits of piano with the kind of equally demi-epic drive and rollicking punch that many bands seem to have adopted now that it's allegedly OK to claim that Bruce Springsteen is the be-all and end-all of rock & roll. From there, Southeast Engine make their own steady-as-it-goes way across their third album, A Wheel Within a Wheel, which given the name's biblical origin sounds like it should be more of a reference to Dune than it is. Remnant no doubt means well with his heartfelt ruminations -- a song title like "Oh God, Let Me Back In" is a good indication of the currents at work -- and it all sounds pleasant enough, but that's just the problem: there's pleasant melodrama and pleasant merriment and it all sounds...pleasant. Straightforward, vaguely arty if one squints, and designed for a world with NPR everywhere and without breakbeats or line dancing, no doubt it scratches a rock & roll itch somewhere; it's just not clear where.
A Wheel Within a Wheel Review
by Ned Raggett