Criteria – En Garde (CD)

If your liner notes say that Conor Oberst helped you, then chances are that your album will be absolutely fantastic. Hard rocking post-hardcore music from an all-star band (individuals come from The White Octave, Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos, Lullaby for the Working Class, Cursive). All parts of this act together make pieces of art out of their songs. “Play On Words” has a haunting chorus that is completely made up in Das and Dahs, all in the utmost seriousness and churning guitar solos. Starting off “Talk in a Crowded Room” with a guitar line that shakes up all conceptions of Criteria with its grunginess (think Animalize-era Kiss meets Appetite for Destruction-era Slash), Criteria moves swiftly into “The Life”. “The Life” is the hospital room to “Talk in a Crowded Room”’s back alley. The dark, crunchy guitars of TIACR move into almost-synthy guitar lines in TL. Even if this band is one of the most technically sound acts out in music currently, chances are that they will be picked up by mTV or a major radio station, and people just will not know a thing about Criteria, or any of the other groundshaking bands that any of these members were in. Rocking out like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the beginning of “Me On Your Front Porch”, Criteria continues to vacillate between the typical lost love songs and these hard-rocking tracks. Each track starts off with technically-perfect and utterly innovative guitar lines, and chances are that any track that the casual listener will play off this disc will have time signatures that virtually no one has heard before. The standout track that has it all – the innovative guitars, the odd time signatures, the catchy song delivery – is “The Slider”, a track again about a relationship that has gone horribly awry. Moving on, Criteria moves directly from the Opus that is “The Slider” to “Thorn Sharp”, which may be an underappreciated song due to its position on the disc. While the track may not immediately be one in which a listener can find a hook or a kindred spirit as easily as “The Slider”, it is an absolutely brilliant song. En Garde ends with the lo-fi “Rescue Rescue”, a track that is slightly off due to the distorted guitars/synth and electronic drum kit. “Rescue Rescue” sounds more like Duran Duran than a band collected of some of the most famous emo-rockers the world has known.

Top Tracks : The Slider, Thorn Sharp

Criteria – En Garde / 10 Tracks / 2003 Initial Records / http://www.criteriamusic.com / http://www.initialrecords.com / Reviewed 28 July 2003 / Released 10 June 2003

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