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Madness of the Crowd
Artist: Ace Troubleshooter
Label: Tooth and Nail
Length: 11 tracks

Ace Troubleshooter's sophomore effort, The Madness of the Crowds, is something of a dream come true for a half-hearted pop/punk fan like myself. On the one hand, I've always been attracted to the pure, raw energy and passion of the genre, and Ace men offer up plenty of that with their new record. On the other hand, though, modern punk music has always seemed a bit repetitive to me. After two or three songs with similar riffs and tempos in a row, it tends to get a bit tiresome. Thankfully, Ace Troubleshooter has rectified this problem with their relatively diverse new album, making The Madness of the Crowds a must-buy for any Christian pop/punk fan-even wimpy ones like me.

The band has been touring constantly since their debut record made a minor blip on the Christian rock radar two years ago, and the positive effect it has had on Ace is apparent from the first listen. More mature and eclectic than their self-titled freshman release, The Madness of the Crowds finds Ace Troubleshooter adding a few new elements to their formulaic pop/punk sound. Though the change is nothing groundbreaking or extreme, the addition of more traditional rock n' roll and emo elements to Ace's musical brew makes the album not only more unpredictable, but also more accessible.

Take "2:00 Your Time," for example. Vocally and lyrically similar to The Juliana Theory's "This is Not A Love Song," the song finds Ace Troubleshooter slowing things down a bit for a brief moment of contemplation, as vocalist John Warne quietly sings over a lone electric guitar strum. Though the song eventually kicks back into typical, rapid-fire pop/punk mode, it's nice to know that Ace Troubleshooter is capable of being soft and reflective, even if it's only for part of a song.

If that song doesn't sell you on Ace Troubleshooter's semi-sophisticated new punk sound, try the emo-flavored "Estella." After an admittedly irritating electric guitar intro, the song takes an unexpected turn into slower, more melodic territory. Showcasing moody instrumentation and one of Warne's softer, more delicate vocals, "Estella" is a significant album highlight that makes one wish this band would dabble in emo more often.

Still skeptical about The Madness of the Crowds? Just give "Numinous" a listen. Boasting a laid back, lazy drum beat and some surprising vocal harmonies, "Numinous" is another emo-influenced track, in the same vein as "Estella." This lazy groove of a song, arguably the most emotional on the album, features some impressive, intricate guitar and drum work, not to mention one of the most memorably atmospheric choruses in Ace Troubleshooter history.

If this record sounds too good to be true, please take note of some of the downsides: Lyrically, this album is merely mediocre, as most of the songs are the typical love/love lost songs that are so typical of the pop/punk and emo genres, though the band does make a few leaps towards lyrical greatness, such as the clever social commentary of the title track . Also, there are a few more mundane, run-of-the-mill pop/punk tunes, such as "Your Reach," that seem almost like filler when compared to the more exciting sounds of surrounding tracks. Still, The Madness of the Crowds is something of a triumph for Ace Troubleshooter, one that finds them significantly expanding their sound, taking their place among the elite of the Christian pop/punk world, and delivering an ultimately fun and unpredictable rock album that should remain one of 2002's best. 

Josh Hurst 7/10/2002

Ace Troubleshooter entered Christian music at a bad time to impress reviewers. With the market flooded with pop punk albums, the debut from Ace Troubleshooter didn't provide much to get its head above the water. With their sophomore follow up, however, the band seems to be playing music they are more comfortable with and that will inevitably set them apart enough to be noticed.

The new sound of Ace Troubleshooter is somewhere in the whole gamut of emo/rock with a twinge of punk still left and pop sensibilities all across the board. The band's sound on Madness of the Crowd could draw comparisons to Jimmy Eat World or Weezer and those comparisons would certainly be well founded. To these ears, the music generally sounds good, with some times being better than others. 

The lyrics on this release generally explore relationships, but songs about God are also included. The lyrical highlight is "Have It All," which was also included on the Happy Christmas 3 release this last winter. The song does a good job of addressing Christ's divinity and mankind's depravity in relation to the birth of Jesus. The version on Madness of the Crowd sounds a bit more raw than its previous version. Love songs like "2:00 Your Time" and "Estella" also should sit well with listeners and are catchy enough to gain repeat listens. "Amanda" and "Out to Sea," though rather pointless lyrically could prove to be the biggest hits from the album simply due to the fact that they are fun.

The other songs on the album plod along without leaving much to be remembered by. The vocals aren't strong enough to make the music as defining as Jimmy Eat World or Weezer, but there should be enough here to please many Christian music listeners. It won't be long before Ace Troubleshooter becomes a youth group favorite. I suppose they are better than some of the alternatives.

Trae Cadenhead 7/11/2002

After three indie releases and a self-titled Tooth & Nail debut in 2000, the members of Ace Troubleshooter seem determined to use their back catalog as both a reference point and a springboard for their latest effort.  True to much of what has preceded it, the new project, The Madness of the Crowds, once again showcases the Minneapolis foursome's love of all things punk/pop-related.  Songs like "Amanda" and the album-opening title track are built around the chugging, pop-savvy neo-punk of artists such as Rancid and the Offspring.  In the same way, tracks like "Let's Go Away" and "Out to Sea" (Hey, Mamacita/ Ain't it great?/ Putting distance between myself/ And all the shelves/ Of smarmy, charmy human creeps) feature heaping portions of the cheeky, pun-heavy language that artists from MxPx to Green Day have come to hang their collective hats on.

Where its forerunners more or less confined themselves to the punk/pop arena, the Madness release shows the Troubleshooters adopting a slightly more divergent musical palette.  The plaintive, romantically-themed lyrics of "2:00 Your Time" and "Estella" exhibit definite emo rock tendencies.  Likewise, the intricate chord progressions and shifting time signatures found on tracks like "Estella" and "Numinous" fall somewhere along the thin line separating the punk and emo genres.  The bounding energy and soaring falsetto vocals that inform "Have it All" show a certain similarity to the modern-day guitar pop outfits like Oasis and the Elms.  And the lilting melody and plentiful major-to-minor key changes of "Age of Gold" hark back to the classic pop stylings of everyone from the Beatles to Badfinger.

All said and done, the band's decision to broaden their musical scope has been an overwhelmingly positive one.  Those who circulate in punk circles will be encouraged to find that Madness features the AT cooperative's most solid line-up of frenetic punk/pop compositions to date.  Listeners who prefer their tunes to be knit from a kinder, gentler weave, on the other hand, will take no less delight in the group's newfound propensity for marrying intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics to infectiously melodic pop/rock odes.  While a small handful of the ventures outside of the punk/pop domain produce less than letter-perfect results, the new album more than compensates for the deficit by carrying with it the enthusiasm and excitement of a set of musicians stretching out and trying something new.  And, this time out, both the band and its listeners walk away winners.

Bert Gangl 7/20/2002



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