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September 2001 Pick of the Month

Summershine
Artist: Vigilantes of Love 
Label: Compass Records
Length: 13 tracks/48:23

Sometimes you hear a record that makes you lose your objectivity.  As a critic, you think "I can't just rave about a record without finding 
something wrong with it!"

Summershine, the latest gem from Vigilantes of Love, made me work awfully hard to find anything negative.  In fact, I would say this album insures that I will deliver my annual rant to anyone who will listen, along the lines of: "VoL is the best band in the country that no one has ever heard of.  Why won't radio play these guys?"

"You Know That (Is Nothing New)" opens the album with a Dire Straits meets Gin Blossom style, and sounds like a hit single on any "adult alternative" or college station.  "She Is Fading" details a chance meeting at a carnival or like event, and sums up the essence of what it's like to be young and looking for love in the summertime.  "Fading" is the song R.E.M. should have recorded on their latest release.

"I Could Be Wrong (But I Don't Think I Am)" bears a strong resemblance to the Tom Petty song "Feel A Whole Lot Better", and details a man trying to understand where his relationship is headed:

 What you keep telling me just keeps me guessing
 but those green eyes leave a different impression
 Sometimes your heart, well, it won't follow the plan
 I could be wrong, I could be wrong, I could be wrong
 But I don't think I am.

 Sometimes with words, you gotta look right through
 Sometimes the opposite is true.

"Stand Beside Me (You've Got To)" is a cross between Americana and British pop.  It serves as a perfect example of Bill Mallonee's ability to convey an experience that we all have, yet make it poetic:
 Sleight of hand, angry words,
 and the arguments that don't get heard
 I'm so smitten and so attached
 With my paper dreams you strike the match.

 You should know my buttercup -
 It's easier to fall and harder to get up!

 And it won't make it any less true
 When you deny what's inside of you
 I could show you a thing or two
 But you've got to stand beside me, stand beside me.

There are two songs here that have been rescued from possible obscurity.  "Puttin' Out Fires (With Gasoline)" was a concert staple during  the Audible Sigh tour, and thankfully, Mallonee saw fit to include it here.  "It's Not Bothering Me" was included on the limited edition 2000 EP, Room Despair, and has some slightly reworked lyrics here.

"Green Summer Lawn" contains some of the more profound lines:

 There's a wind behind the stars
 There's a voice that says:
 'You are more than you think you are!'
 If you don't know the score you don't know when you lose,
 And my God this stuff you buy in place of the truth
 Won't stay strong
 Let your worries be gone
 Put your dancing shoes on
 For your green summer lawn.
Bill has always described VoL's method as "Making It Up As We Go Along."  Now he's written the song to go with that philosophy.  It speaks of how we need to put forth our best appearance, even when we're unsure:
 Hit it with a swagger
 Underneath we're not that strong
 We are making it up as we go along.
So what, you ask, stops me from giving this selection my highest rating? Is it bassist Jake Bradley or drummer Kevin Heuer? No - this is the best band Mallonee has assembled yet.  My minor, petty, trivial complaint is in regards to the last song on the CD, "Sailors (The Reddest Rose)" - the lyrics are great but the tempo of the song, to me, seems incredibly slow.

Summershine, if given a chance by radio and the corporate music world, will be the biggest surprise of 2001.  Anyone who likes Squeeze, Tom Petty, Neil Young, XTC, the Byrds, the Athens, GA sound, or British pop will find  something here.  The best album I have listened to this year.

Brian A. Smith    8/14/2001

The line up of Bill Mallonee, Jake Bradley, and Kevin Heuer is the strongest in the history of the Vigilantes of Love and Summershine is one of the best records in the band's history. With a mighty fan base and an accessible, approachable musician presence, VoL is making waves on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

However, the pre-CD hype of a complete style change is not fulfilled. Summershine is still basically Atlanta-sound, Americana music with just a bit of British sensibilities sprinkled in. The record starts out strong with a West Coast Byrds-like song called "You Know That." Continuing with the effort to change musical personae, Mallonee uses more guitar effects and carries more of a tune more often on this record.

Most of the song writing on Summershine measures up to the band's usual high standard, but there are a couple of weaker ideas in the middle of the listen. One song even borrows from David Bowie the imagery of dousing a fire with gasoline. That song, "Puttin' Out Fires," may be included because it was, and is, a live show favorite, but is at odds with the sunny, love struck theme of the project.

Don't get me wrong, the record is very good; superior in fact, when compared to the rest of the band's catalog. Throw in an occasional Rickenbacher effect and a backwards guitar loop and I guess you can claim a quasi-British record but it's not fair to expect music like that of,  "Coldplay, and Travis, and James, and Oasis," as Mallonee has boldly compared VoL's new sound.  Summershine is not that kind of record and it should not be listened to that way. It is a very fine, thoughtful, well-written, very well performed and produced piece of musical passion. American passion that talks of "summer shine and everything that makes the woeful heart to sing" [..."She Is Fading," track two]. The CD is consistent throughout and the pace is energetic until the last song, "Sailors," when the band slows to a lumber to sing about a lost friend and secrets untold.

One secret that needs to be told is that Vigilantes Of Love is a exceptional band with a excellent new record. Let someone know.

Tony LaFianza 10/27/2001

Time for some brutal honesty... I have never been a huge fan of Vigilantes of Love. I have enjoyed their stuff; they were good, but didn't connect with me like they had with so many other critics. I enjoyed them, but their work never made it into my "always playing" list. I cordially went along with the crowd on the topic of VoL. I accepted that they had a way of touching a nerve in many critics, and was disappointed that they had not broken out to the mass fame that their talents warranted, but I never heard the "thing" that had so many critics fawning over them. Then I heard Summershine. Now I am connected.

As with most VoL releases, I was intrigued, hoping that maybe this time I would hear what everyone was talking about. So I agreed to take a listen. The opening track was enough for me to say "I finally get it!" "You Know That (Is Nothing New)" is a great opening track, with its acoustic guitar and drums
thumping a steady, delightful beat into my ears, along with beautiful, poetic lyrics:

Moonlight be a friend tonight
We're all wrecked up on these dreams
Holding on a bit too tight
I've got splinters from these moonbeams
If it seems we're falling down
If it seems we're falling through
Darlin' you know that is nothing
Darlin' you know that is nothing new
"You Know That (Is Nothing New)" leads very nicely into the rest of this gem of an album. Another highlight includes the ode to confusion and dismay, "I Could Be Wrong (But I Don't Think I Am)," which goes through the trials of not really knowing what's going on in a relationship or how to interpret
the "signs."

That track leads into my personal favorite on the album, "Along For The Ride," a beautifully haunting piece with a slow guitar and vocal delivery that is heartbreaking and sad. It's an emotional investment song that seems to be builtfor the "night driving mixed tape" alongside David Gray and Travis.

This album is fantastic. With little else to say beyond that, I am now a fan, and I am now excited about future releases; not just to see what the hype is all about, but rather because I am finally connected.

Aaron Bell 11/15/2001
Swift Kick Entertainment


 

After following a band for a number of years, one might expect an "off album" at some point. Not so with the Vigilantes of Love; they never fail to delight, and Summershine is no exception.

The lineup for this CD is the longest-running in the band's history: Bill Mallonee on lead vocals and guitar, Kevin Heuer on drums and percussion, and Jake Bradley on bass.

While the sound of the new CD is different from past recordings from the band, it still sounds like the VOL so many know and love. The general sound is more light pop than on previous outings, but Mallonee holds true to form with thoughtful songwriting and a lullaby to close the CD.

Unfortunately, the CD has failed to have the hoped-for impact on radio and college campuses. Perhaps it's the lack of fashionable angst; perhaps it's the slowdown of all retail activity since September 11; it's hard to tell. In any case, Summershine is a fine CD and one well worth checking out. In a perfect world (or even a fair one), songwriting of this high caliber would be rewarded with commercial success. Only you, the consumer, can make it so. Choose wisely.

Lisa Reid  11/18/2001


 

   
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