Mixing Third Eye Blind with Fuel for their first track on Are You Listening?, Quickening use interesting, offbeat arrangements to make the track catchier. The guitars laid down by James and Justin are in the higher register, and provide an interesting contract to the more middle-ground nature of James’ vocals. Perfect music for popular radio circa 1999-200, but Quickening stays away from any staleness argument due to the convictions they hold while they are playing music. While the guitars in tracks like “Collision Course” are a slight bit on the cliché side, James’ soulful vocals and the perfectly on-time drums of Patrick really cover up anything in the way of weakness. The sheer energy that a track like “Here’s A Tip”, whether it be the striving and searching double-harmonies laid down, the Yellowcard-esque guitar lines or the stop-start arrangements incorporating the entire band, shows that Quickening are never happy with what they are currently achieving – they are trying for better with each song.
Each track on “Are You Listening?” continues Quickening’s tradition of using extremely powerful and fitting bursts from each component of their band – gone are the weaknesses from the band’s previous release, “A Victory”. Where “A Victory” suffered under too-heavy distortion at times, the sagely hand of Roger Lian (Coheed & Cambria) has made “Are You Listening?” a gem that will unfortunately not be heard by a thousandth of the people that should be listening. Where there might still be minor rough spots on this disc where Quickening do fall into a small rut with repetitive guitar lines – like the aforementioned issue during “Collision Course” and during the opening of “Abe”.
However, it is the interesting time signatures of Quickening that really is their strongest suit. The near-solo vocal performance during “Eyes & Ears” show the abilities of the band to work around a set of lyrics that are slightly sing-songy in nature. Overall, “Are You Listening?” is a very satisfying album, a complete jump from “A Victory”, but not yet the next “Deja Entendu”. Just wait until the next album from these kids from Cleveland, and we may still be shocked here in 2005 or 2006 when a Quickening video is just as the next big thing on MTV2. Exciting me most about Quickening is the ability for so many distinct pieces to come together as a coherent puzzle, whether it be the two sets of vocals, the two styles of guitars, or even the drums with the rest of the band.
Top Tracks:Here’s A Tip, 1000 Thoughts and No Words
Quickening – Are You Listening? / 11 Tracks / 2004 Self-Released / http://www.quickening.tv / Reviewed 20 July 2004