That’s right. Better Than Ezra is still kicking ass. For those of you that don’t know, BTE is a band that rose to prominence in the early 90′s Anything-With-Substance-Is-Better-Than-Hair-Metal phase. If grunge was too sad for you and Ace of Base was too happy, bands like Blues Traveler, Tonic, Cowboy Mouth, The Wallflowers, Gin Blossoms, and BTE were the perfect middle ground for tunes as well as fashion.
The horror… the absolute horror…
These and the early millenial bands were the last of the pre-American Idol generation/pre-pro tools generation. If you think of musical decades as the male cast of Home Improvement, Tim Allen was the 60′s. Sure, he gets arrested every now and then but he’s still respected. He laid the foundation. The 70′s and 80′s were Zachery Ty Bryant and Jonathon Taylor Thomas. They’re still around and still acting but doing it in front of far fewer people and for far less money. The 90′s, however, were Taran Noah Smith. The 90′s married a chick who was sixteen years older and started a non-dairy cheese manufacturer and an organic vegan restaurant. The 90′s could do whatever they wanted. Wilson can be the 50′s, beloved and offering sage-like wisdom in times of need. 2000-2010 of course, is bland ol’ Al Borland. Do you think this will be remembered as a good decade for music?
I don’t think so, Tim.
But a lot of these bands are still touring. They’re the Night’s Watch. They’re up on The Wall protecting us from the Others, bland vanilla White Walkers with over-produced mad lib singles. Fortunately, as radio music continues to get shittier and shittier, a lot of young people are starting to travel back in time in search of something pure… pure as the sweet falsetto of Kevin Griffin’s majestic voice.
On of the things I’ve always enjoyed about Better Than Ezra is their chameleon-like ability to blend in with other music. Better Than Ezra’s style is that they have no style. Want introspective lyrics and interesting guitar riffs? Want a bit of New Orleans Jazz style? Want nonsensical phrases over pop beats? Better Than Ezra is like a musical mood ring capable of expressing whatever you’re feeling at that moment. And unlike other bands that have tried to incorporate new things into their repertoire or bands that have refused to change anything, they make it work. No matter what they introduce it always manages to sound like Better Than Ezra. This is readily apparent on their latest work, All Together Now.
Crazy Lucky- The lead single is simply fun. This is the kind of music I like to listen to while I get dressed in the morning to ensure I start off the day in a good mood.
Gonna Get Better- A late night lamentation about an old friend reassuring his drunk friend that things are gonna get better. There’s a fantastic juxtaposition of dark subject matter and upbeat music on this track.
Undeniable- This track is the first of several that have that newer electro sound. Think Better Than Ezra doing an Imagine Dragons song. The lyric, “I put my head inside an oven if I need some air” sets the tone for this catchy song about a man being in love with a woman who is no good for him.
Insane- This song is a bit all over the place (As a song entitled Insane should be) but a catchy guitar riff and a Doors sounding keyboard solo push another happy sounding song about how fucked up life can be forward.
Sunflowers- Any one that has ever dated a crazy girl can appreciate a song like this. At first listen, I didn’t think the lyrics made a ton of sense, but upon further reflection I really enjoy the lyric, “You put the lemonade in my head”. When she squeezes you tight, and life gives you lemons, all you need is a little sugar.
The Great Unknown- This song is about a chick leaving home, going to Burning Man, doing drugs, and finding herself. It references Tom Petty, which is interesting as Petty is one of my favorite artists to listen to on road trips and this is a perfect road trip song. Put this on repeat and set the cruise control.
Before You- Written with Gabe Dixon, this is what a Coldplay song could sound like if they were good. This is one of the few kind of mellow songs on the album and consequently one of my favorites. Relying on a piano and what sounds like an entire string section, this song is the perfect one to follow The Great Unknown. It’s like Hannah has gone out into the crazy world to find herself and now has found her perfect match as well.
Dollar Sign- Kevin Griffin teams back up with Shy Carter (They helped write Sugarland’s Stuck Like Glue) for this laid back rap that channels the vibe from their 2001 album Closer. Fans of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack will recognize a tease of Redbone’s Come And Get Your Love.
One Heart Beating- This song continues the album’s trend of having great opening lines. “There’s a treasure in the wreckage of your soul.” This song has a bit of an Arcade Fire/fun./Pompeii vibe to it. This song definitely makes me feel connected to the rest of the universe.
Diamond In My Pocket- This song teamed up Kevin Griffin with James Blunt. If you liked their previous record (Paper Empire) then you’ll like this song.
I Fly Away- This is a classic high on life anthem about how you don’t need anything but yourself to deal with problems. It has a bit of an island/African vibe to it.
The album is definitely a bit on the pop side but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in this case. The thing that comes to my mind the most when thinking about it is, “Feel good”. This is a feel good album. I can tell that I’m going to use this to get me out of many a funk in the years to come. Including background vocals from songwriter (And Drive Music founder) Nolan Sipe and past collaborator Jeremy Lister (And his Street Corner Symphony bandmate Adam Chance) with beats from longtime drummer Travis McNabb it really feels like everyone came together to make All Together Now. I give it an A-.