The Architect

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As the singer says with smart passion at one point, "I ridicule the mainstream!" -- always a worthy goal whenever the mainstream is particularly rotten, and 1996 was as bad a year as any. Having won a variety of comparisons -- and understandable ones at that -- to Girls Against Boys, Elevate neatly thumbed its nose at the critics by going right ahead and recording its second album with that group's key sound sculptor, Eli Janney, in Maryland. The band members chose even more cryptic monikers this time around -- Hair, Legs, Clothes, and Shoes, this time not even specifically identified with a particular instrumentalist. Obscure imagery aside, Elevate continued its just abrasive enough vision of rock tension, with a little more spite and fire this time -- not that Bronzee didn't have plenty of that, but lyrics referring to "testosterone eyes" and "two rivals need no abuse excuse" are again delivered with Fall-touched bile. The Architect differs from Bronzee in that, if anything, the off-kilter approach that both bands share is even more clearer here -- Janney certainly wasn't out to persuade Elevate to try something different, if anything he helped it sound even better than ever. The same thick but tight playing approach remains for the quartet, but even at its most blasting there's a clear separation in instruments, combining impact with individual detail. "General Purpose," with a snarling initial bassline and almost metallic percussion clatters to recommend it, and the heavily distorted vocal roars halfway through the aggro strut of "Tuxedo Mouthpiece" show that Janney knew how to record the band for maximum impact. Quieter numbers conjure up images of moody filmnoir scenarios where threat and inviting shadow combine -- "The Resin World" almost glides with weirdly relaxed edginess, effortlessly swinging.

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