Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires / Lee Bains III

Dereconstructed

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Some musicians are fine with hitting a comfortable middle ground, and others have to push things to the edges, demanding all or nothing. Lee Bains III is clearly the kind of guy who wants to go hard or go home, and after the slightly too polite tone of his first album with the Glory Fires, 2012's There Is a Bomb in Gilead, he's chosen to put the pedal to the metal with his sophomore effort, 2014's Dereconstructed. Bains clearly wanted this album to rawk, and that's just what it does -- the guitars from Bains and Eric Wallace bark and wail at every turn, and the rhythm section of bassist Adam Williamson and drummer Blake Williamson (who play tight enough that it makes perfect sense that they're brothers) drives these tunes like a big block Hemi in fifth gear. Dereconstructed has all the sweat and swagger you could hope for, and the tunes are full-on hot-rodded Southern rock, melodic but full of scrappy fire and fist-pumping force. But while Dereconstructed rocks hard, it ultimately hits a little too hard in the wrong ways. Producer Tim Kerr has overdriven the guitars far enough into the red zone that they sound like a fuzzy and distorted mess after a while, while the mix by Bains and Jeremy Ferguson pushes those guitars so far to the front that Bains' vocals are barely audible (and given his strength as a lyricist, that's a truly lamentable choice). Dereconstructed works despite the audio -- Bains and the Glory Fires are clearly a first-class rock band that can deliver the goods, and these tracks capture them in raucous form, while the songs are even stronger than the very fine material on their debut. But while Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires may be a great rock & roll band, they haven't quite cracked the code on making a great album, at least in terms of audio, and Dereconstructed manages to be impressive, encouraging, and frustrating at the same time.

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