Dezeray's Hammer

The Past That Decorates Me

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Originality can be great, but it isn't everything -- not by any means. Some CDs aren't big on originality or experimentation but offer material that is solid, pleasing, and well crafted; The Past That Decorates Me is such a CD. No one who has closely followed the alternative pop/rock scene in the '90s or the 21st century will find this 2005 release to be groundbreaking; Dezeray's Hammer doesn't do anything that Matchbox Twenty, the Gin Blossoms, the Goo Goo Dolls, or the Dave Matthews Band haven't already done. But if The Past That Decorates Me is derivative, it isn't derivative in a bad way; from the congenial, good-natured opener, "King's Highway," to the mildly funky "Say I" to the introspective "Godmother," this South Carolina band comes through when it comes to hooks, melodies, and quality. Dezeray's Hammer obviously represent the hookier, more tuneful side of alternative pop/rock, and they're enjoyably good at what they do. Of course, not every artist who comes along is going to reinvent the musical wheel. Sure, the shock of the new can be a major thrill, but realistically, the sort of rush you got the first time you experienced the amazing freshness of the Beatles, Cecil Taylor, Rick James (before he turned into a sad, predictable, uninspired caricature of himself), the Sex Pistols, or Run-D.M.C. is the exception rather than the rule. Most artists -- even the talented ones -- will inevitably be followers rather than leaders, and an album doesn't have to be as cutting-edge as Nellie McKay's Get Away from Me (the most interesting, fresh-sounding release of 2004) or Nirvana's Nevermind in order to have merit. Sometimes, a listener who is willing to sacrifice originality is rewarded with quality and craftsmanship; that's the tradeoff, and it's a tradeoff that serves Dezeray's Hammer well on The Past That Decorates Me.

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