Caroline's Spine


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Caroline?s Spine?s first album is pretty much what it intended to be ? a post grunge/punk breakthrough debut that ended up on a major label and doesn?t really suffer for it at all. If anything it?s because bandleader Jimmy Newquist is a pretty good judge of his band?s skills as a producer and in combination with engineer Don Calderone made sure they played to it. There?s grunge?s thick flow of sound, post-adolescent questioning about love and life and above all even amidst lyrical declarations of sorrow and confusion the music shifts up gears to peppy energy easily enough. Newquist?s singing has a fair amount of the early nineties? ready tendency to equate anguished and slightly strained vocals with automatic depth, admittedly, but compared to the self-loving idiocy of early Stone Temple Pilots there?s no contest. Admittedly a few of the lyrics are vague imagery without much in the way of impact, thus the title track, but that?s made up for by the sharp self-character study ?So Good Afternoon.? Much of what works about Monsoon comes in sudden moments that aren?t breathtakingly original but work perfectly in context ? the drop in of acoustic guitars in ?You and Me? after the feedback has kicked in, the lush extra guitar and suddenly distorted vocals on ?Unglued,? the sly semi-thrash parody ?Necro.? The best song, ?Sullivan,? is a surprisingly affecting reworking of the story of the family who lost all five of its sons in a World War II naval attack. Newquist?s voice is both affecting and yearning, and the abrupt lead guitar figure is downright beautiful ? if the band deserves to be remembered for anything, it?s this great radio-ready history lesson that connects rather than patronizes.

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