CP REVIEW: Ceramic - The Past Aint Fair
By: Cyrus Rhodes
Label: Independent Artist
Genre: Alternative Folk, Rock
Sounds Like: Sparklehorse, Flaming Lips, The Beetles
Technical Grade: 10/10
Weakness: Short sided songs, Conservative vocal performances, Sonic Over
John Scheaffer’s New York based band Ceramic releases their debut CD entitled The Past Aint’ Fair in 2010.
The CD gently takes to flight with soothing intro piece “You Gave More Than Enough” This song methodically serves up delicate acoustic guitar groove with driving rock rhythm against rich sonic melodies & psychedelic vocal flair from Schaeffer. Track 2 “Who’s Gonna Guide the Night” shifts gears a bit with driving rock rhythm, Gin Blossomy type guitars segments, & hooky vocal melodies from Schaeffer & company. Track 3 “How Can I Return” serves up a clever methodical piece of music complete with clever lyrical content, & impressive vocal accents & harmonies. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of classic Sparklehorse, They Might Be Giants, Death Cab for Cutie, The Beetles, & perhaps a splash of Flaming Lips. This CD makes a pretty solid first impression. Right from the start you will notice rich musical textures overflowing everywhere, full of mystery, variety & rich sonic layering. I would classify this music as acoustic pop rock, with a slight aftertaste of alternative folk. The songs themselves are addictive, & thought provoking complete with mysterious subject matter. The musicianship of this band is pretty solid across the board. The players themselves write, & play there parts extremely well. Along the way you will notice lush layers of instrumentation. Besides the 4 piece standard you will also notice impressive things well placed strings, fiddles, piano, Hammond Organ chops, percussive accents, horns, slide guitar, & mandolin layered along the way. Like the aforementioned - the sonic layering is off the charts. Scheaffer’s voice works well across the board & fills the sonic space peacefully & unobtrusively. From hypnotic “Angels in the Desert” to folksy ditty “Blue Comet” & “The Wait” to striking “How’d you get so Down” & “Lose the King” to psychedelic “The Past aint Fair” to hard hitting “Velvet Coat” this CD pretty much has it all.
I like Schaeffer vocal style but there are times I really wish he would take more vocal risks thus pushing the emotional envelope a bit more - especially during some of the finale moments. When these opportunities present themselves rather than rise to the occasion, Schaeffer elects to just play it safe delivering a somewhat uneventful, repetitive, boring, luke-warm vocal delivery. No doubt the production value of this catalogue is quite expensive indeed making Schaeffers voice sound polished. But song for song Schaeffer could use more vocal moxy, personality & phrasing dynamic beneath the myriad of vocal effects applied to his voice. It’s also fair to say the CD suffers from sonic over saturation, or sonic overdose. There comes a time when these effects become counterproductive, & there are production risks taken take when venturing off the fairway. The mix is a bit all over the place with respect to some of the sonic effects & touches. Track 5 “Blue Comet” & Track 6 “How’d you get so Down” sound like an incomplete statements to me. It's fair to say some songs on the catalogue are better than others. If this review seems a bit lopsided, it merely reflects the extremes extremes presented on The Past Aint Fair. Album cover looks strikingly similar to Live's 1995 release Trowing Copper
The Past Aint Fair by Ceramic is an impressive musical production from start to finish. The music is clean, goes down smooth, & the messages are extremely thought provoking & mysterious in nature. It’s strong suit – the deeply rich production value & arsenal of music professionals Schaeffer brings to the table. He possesses enough musical talent & songwriting prowess to be extremely dangerous.
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