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March 2000 Pick of the Month
Matter Has a Breaking Point 
Artist: Two-Thirty Eight 
Label: Takehold Records 
Tracks/time: 8 tracks/27:31

 
Box cars with cheap brakes made for accidents
Improper maintenance has its consequences
A fuse blows, a cord snaps
Matter has a breaking point 
Flesh, like these, is a weak beam
Likely to break under the slightest weight of temptation.
twothirtyeight are as in touch with their music as they are with their spirituality.  With lines like,
"There is this beautiful disease in her parks and in her trees," in reference to Portland, Maine, and "It gets so awful quiet," in reference to the late-night stillness that deep spiritual thinkers have come to love, it's easy to see that these guys are poets as well.

Musically, they're bringing something to the genre of Christian rock that is long overdue.  With the release of Blenderhead's Muchacho Vivo and then the advent, and demise, of Roadside Monument, it seemed that indie rock would once and for all find a place in the annals of Christian music.

Unfortunately, nothing of late has rooted into the scene (other than the low-fi indie sound of Soul Junk, which is perhaps the best thing that could happen). And although Blenderhead is making a comeback, the bands known for emo-core guitar noise are still largely secular.  twothirtyeight is the exception to the rule.  Their music is spiritually moving and forward.

Their indie rock style is poppy, yet mature, with chord progressions that rival some of the more famous secular bands, and lyrically hold more integrity. They blend the pop-punk, raw guitar sound of MXPX's Pokinatcha with the elaborate intricacies of Sunny Day Real Estate's Diary and come up with something that sounds a little like the Promise Ring and stylistically all their own. 

A near EP, matter has a breaking point opens with the pop-punk punch of "just dropping (a line)" and "to the concerned" before breaking into the emotional "a beautiful disease," "this is why i wait," and "a suitcase from your nightstand," and then into the clean piano and acoustic sound of "you made a way for moses." Few bands have  so beautifully blended the more pop styles of punk rock with the serious musicianship and artfulness of indie rock.  The breaks, builds, and beats leave you expectantly awaiting the next cymbal crash as each song builds with intensity into a highly proliferated pulse.

The album, although poppy and catchy, does not start out strong.  It took a few listens to appreciate it from its inception.  But once the ear catches the progression of this trio's work, the last crashes of "far from comfort" will leave anyone screaming "IT GETS SO AWFUL QUIET," until the stars above split, and the heavens are opened, and the Lord of Glory himself comes down on a white horse with a host of angels to make some noise. 

The only complaint that I can really muster is that this album is far too short and far too long overdue.

Todd Ballard 2/8/2000

This sophomore album by Two-Thirty Eight finds them returning to their friendly, poppy fusion of
alternative rock, emo, and pop punk. Plenty of distortion and melodies wrapped up in decent songs,
with no extremes or anything very memorable. Most songs start soft and slow, then the guitars kick in,
build, and fill the speakers. It's stronger than their last effort, but Two-Thirty Eight still sound like dozens of indie bands out there right now. 

Each song has a particularly strong phrasing of some solid truth or common experience. "To the Concerned"  is about "things that make the head hang low." "A Beautiful Disease" deals with the difficulty in moving away from one's hometown--"there is everything but home beyond her borders." "Suitcases
for Always" muses "The world is bitter at both ends/And nothing makes you more become it quite like
running from it." "Far from Comfort" asks "What are the words but funny noises when there is no one
there to hear?" The album's stand-out track, though, is "You Made a Way for Moses," an acoustic song with gentle vocals and faded piano and orchestration back in the mix, as vocalist/bassist Chris Staples pleads "Jesus, you made a way for Moses - can you make one for me now?"

Fans who can't get enough of stuff like recent Plankeye, Sense Field, and most of the Deep Elm
bands should have a go at Matter Has a Breaking Point.

Josh Spencer    6/17/2000


 
 

Josh Spencer, contributing senior associate editor for The Phantom Tollbooth for over two years, is also publisher and editor-in-chief of spiritual pop culture webzine Stranger Things.  Reviews and articles by him are usually simultaneously published in some form at http://www.strangerthingsmag.com.
   
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