Backseat Driver – 5 Steps to Victory (CD)

Backseat Driver has to be the only band the Greencastle area to actually have an intelligent producer work on their tracks, as the tracks on “5 Steps to Victory”, while still replete with the noisy distortion endemic on many discs during the emo era, are very professional. While the disc begins slowly with “A Thousand Battles”, “Washington Portraits” shows a band that is much more spirited and intense, allowing the twin towers of vocals and guitars push the track forward. The track, which is definitely influenced by both the emo-rock of Brand New as well as the intricate guitar-work of “Lateralus”-era Tool, paints a picture of Backseat Driver that is much different than the band’s opening would indicate. The breakdown on “Washington Portraits” shows the limits of the production on this disc, as even with the drums providing some fill, the vocals on the track are not enough to tie together the two sections of the disc. However weak the vocals may be during that little lull are rectified by the intense guitar riff that finishes off this track. “Washington Portraits” is nearly five minutes, and Backseat Driver have been blessed with the ability to construct compelling enough riffs to ensure that the track flies by much more quickly.

“So Loud, It’s Quiet” maintains the high-energy flow of “Washington Portraits”, a solid if not rote track. “So Loud, It’s Quiet” is solid and straight-forward but what really holds this track back from impressing individuals more is the fact that it is almost too plain-Jane, that there is nothing that really can be pulled out of the track and shown to be specifically “Backseat Driver”. The popping drums of “Fearful Tears” really wipes the slate clean and looks back to “Washington Portraits”, while infusing that framework with a very impressive set of drumming that is absolutely needed at this point on the disc.

Ending the disc with “Homicide in the First Degree”, Backseat Driver shows that they have all their arrangements and instrumentation issues settled. However, what the band needs more than anything at this juncture is a track like “Hand Grenade” or “Guernica” to really light up their fanbase and assume the mantle of kings of emo-rock. “5 Steps to Victory” is one of the better opening EPs I’ve had the chance to put my ears around this year, and really enlighten me to a stronger side of a band that I’ve seen, non-plussed a number of times.

Top Track: Washington Portraits

Rating: 6.4/10

Backseat Driver – 5 Steps to Victory / 2004 Self-Released / 5 Tracks / / / Reviewed 19 April 2005

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