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More Than Motion
Artist: Element 101
Label: Tooth & Nail Records
Length: 10 tracks, length: 45:50 

Element 101 is back with their third release from Tooth & Nail Records, and maybe its just me, but this band just doesn't seem to have the energy, drive, or muscle that most of the label's bands seem to exude.  Or as a friend says, they are "rather sedated" for what they are being marketed as by T&N.

What we have here is some rather basic pop-leaning rock laced with some 80s guitar and keyboard licks.  Throw in some rather uninspiring lyrics and you get the picture.  Lead vocalist Chrissie Verhagen has a pretty good voice, but spends too much time trying to leap through a whole regimen of vocal gymnastics that you don't really get a sense of what she is capable of.  And while I hate lumping all groups with female lead singers together, Element 101 sounds like nothing more than just another warmed-over Benjamin Gate or Superchic(k). 

Okay, so now that I've ticked off at least half of the world's population, I'll admit that this disc has some decently crafted pop songs.  But if that ain't what your looking for, you better look elsewhere.

Ken Mueller  10/12/02 
Radio Curator, The Museum of Television & Radio 

Like a Camry firing on three cylinders, the third release from Element 101 made it through ten songs.  “Made it” being the key phrase.  Far from the edgy, in-your-face style of their other Tooth &Nail labelmates, the New Jersey quintet brings More than Motion, a collection of ten safe tunes, which wander far from the punk label they’ve garnered in the past.

The album opener, “Fade Away”, begins with a guitar reminiscent of the music from Sixpence None the Richer’s This Beautiful Mess before breaking from comparisons with a crunchy series of guitars and the hungry vocals of lead singer Crissie Verhagen.  Lamenting her own tendency to fade from relationship with God, Verhagen sings, “What would I do when second best leaves me still missing you…I’ve begun to find to love you is to miss you, miss you is to love you.”  The song reads like a frantically written letter (note the ending: “I have to go”) and features some of the strongest writing on the album.

After that, though, the album settles into a lull through most of the remaining nine tunes.  Lyrically, they fall into too many common traps (the word “baby” moves in and sets up house) and vagueness shields a lot of the songs’ meanings.  Musically, the band sounds tired and listless…kind of like a worn-out record.  With the exception of “Fade Away” and “Love Has No Sound,” the music sounded very stifled and forced.  I kept expecting to hear the album break out at any moment with something I didn’t expect, but I can’t recall being surprised by anything.  If anything, I was surprised by the somewhat relaxed style of music Element offered, as if the band recorded the album while sipping herbal tea.

Yet, with all the tameness of More than Motion, Element 101 still feels like a band with a lot of room for positive growth.  Verhagen’s vocals are very likable and suitable to lead a rock venture.  Unfortunately, it seems that she tries too hard to carry an otherwise lethargic musical effort.  Her vocal delivery may be the one part of the album that goes over and beyond the necessary means, as if she’s trying to counterbalance the mediocrity.  Occasionally delicate, she tends to lean toward an aggressive style, which works sometimes, but is often saddled by a lagging band effort. 

While not a good album, I can’t really call More than Motion a bad album either; it simply falls in the range of the ordinary, which makes for decent background music. Some of the ingredients for a potent musical concoction are obviously there (notably Verhagen), but several key elements are missing. 

Matthew Williams 10/21/2002


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