CASTING OUT, THE: Go Crazy! Throw Fireworks: CD

Jun 01, 2009

I bet it totally sucks to be saddled with the albatross of your past endeavors. Dudes like John Lydon, Jesse Michaels, and Ian Mackaye have all continued—with varying results—to create music long after their initial trailblazing was done. And it’s not that Nathan Gray (vocalist for The Casting Out and, previous to that, Boy Sets Fire) is necessarily up there in the tiers of musical history with any of those dudes, but unfortunately for him, his vocals are so instantly recognizable and distinct that it’s virtually impossible to not compare his old band to his new one. Boy Sets Fire was once referred to in an old issue of Heartattack as Jon Secada fronting a hardcore band, which had more than a kernel of truth to it—the man sings—but was also pretty unfair: they mixed up the catchiness with some decent snarls, and much of what made that band initially interesting was Gray’s unflinching, over-the-top melodies. Couple that with their aggressive political views and willingness to speak about ‘em—even if they sometimes looked like dumbasses in the process—and they were a band that people either loved or hated. There wasn’t much of a middle ground. Unfortunately for The Casting Out, virtually everything that made Boy Sets Fire unique seems to have been chopped off and scooped out. I mean, the production here is smooth as shit, the band’s incredibly tight, and at times they sound similar to bands like North Lincoln or Epitaph-era Hot Water Music. But with that way-huge melodic sensibility and Gray’s signature pipes that’d easily put Greg Graffin’s whoa-ohs to shame, there’s really not a whole lot of kick and bite available. The whole album is just so frustratingly smooth and glossy. Lyrically, Gray’s gone a lot more personal and introspective this time around, but the entire package—vocals and music combined—just comes across as so goddamn sugary. Again, there’s that albatross—the comparison’s certainly not fair to the rest of the members of The Casting Out, or Gray himself, but it’s there nonetheless. Go Crazy! Throw Fireworks! leaves me wishing, ultimately, for less polish and more sneer, or at least for something vocally varied enough to act as a lifeline to pull me through these songs. The music’s generally pretty good, but coupled with those vocals and relentless melodies, there are no rough-hewn edges to grab onto. It’s just a smooth ride all the way through, which ultimately translates, at least to this listener, as a wholly unthreatening, uninteresting ride.

 –keith (Fail Safe)