The Phantom Tollbooth
Hooray For Now
Artist: Viva Voce
Label: Cadence Communications Group (US)/Alliance (UK)
Length: 10 tracks/45:10 minutes

Appearances can be important. The front cover of this album made me initially wary, and didn't quite suggest the brooding alternative rock sounds that its contents hold. Female vocals mixed with alternative music, the guitars are abrasive and varied; there's a slight surf feel to them in places. The vocals have a slightly chilled edge to them, and are sometimes reminiscent of Plumb's Tiffany Arbuckle but are mostly more restrained.

"Heartstring" is possibly the most 'perky' tune on the album, bringing to mind some of the softer pop-punk tunes that were around a couple of years ago. The band pull off the songs well, apart from the fact that the bass is occasionally a little low in the mix, but it's nothing particularly new--probably the biggest weakness of the album. Two or three years ago this might have served Viva Voce well, but while this remains an enjoyable listen, they'll need to find a few more twists to compete in an already
well-populated market.

By James Stewart (9/17/98)

Viva Voce: Italian for “by word of mouth.”  It seems like that's probably the only way to find out about Viva Voce, the latest offering from Cadence. This album reminds me a lot of their fellow label mates Shaded Red's debut in that this is a solid, yet unheralded, disc.

Viva Voce seems to have found that perfect “alternative” niche, reminding me most of Gish and Siamese Dream era Smashing Pumpkins, except with D’arcy on vocals. The guitars on this album are especially worthy of acclaim, being beautifully textured and layered, but never swinging either too heavy or too light, staying true to the power pop nature of the songs.  The vocals too, are exquisite--the throaty, little girl whisper of Anita Robinson perfectly matches the swirling guitars of her husband, Kevin.

The first two songs on the album, “He Touches Stars” and “Fear of Flying,” will probably draw the most Smashing Pumpkins comparisons and are easily the best on the album. Those songs possess a combination of intensity and urgency that unfortunately the rest of album seems to abandon, opting instead for more of a generic pop feel.

The song lyrics throughout the album consist of worshipful, poetic musings. The lyrics from "Bent" are an excellent example:

The production of this album is good; the varied, layered guitar tones carry across particularly well, although from time to time you’ll notice a song’s guitars are a little thin in some places and some drum's tones sound a little odd in others.

While this is an interesting and welcome debut, this record could have been a bit better. Some songs are a little more "poppy" than I prefer, but there are enough solid songs here to show some definite proof of talent. I expect that with a bit more maturity and time, the next album by this husband and wife team will be something to really spread the word about.

By Joe Rockstroh   (1/18/99)