Revolushn – The Freshman – Album Review
Holy shit would you look at that! I’ve got nearly as many band-members in Revolushn as I do songs to review on their latest album, The Freshman – that’s rare! Also, quite cool to me…I’ve talked with more than enough bands over the past fifteen years to know just how complicated the intrinsic-nature of the average FOUR-piece band can be…so let me tell you all firsthand in the case that you’re somehow unaware – running an eight-piece band can pretty much ONLY work if you’ve truly got some excellent people onboard. For real – they can’t just be good musicians…that’s not gonna cut it over time in an eight-piece band…it has to become more than that and find a special bond right at the core of the eight-players in question that really brings that unity out in the music.
You’ll find that Revolushn not only does that exceptionally well, but that the music benefits extraordinarily well from this; they’ve got themselves a stunningly diverse record with their new album The Freshman. What I think impressed me the most about them on my first listens through their record, was that the needs, wants and desires of all these players truly DOES seem to get represented on this album – that you really CAN hear that unity in this band. You can hear the involvement of the players from track to track and how it’s led Revolushn to jam around, experiment, perform and create inside all different kinds of atmospheres and ideas – and that’s freakin’ fantastic. Let me say it again, for the record – what they’re doing is certainly not easily accomplished…my hat is off to them.
I can find music that dates back to around 2014…but I’d assume they’d gotten together prior to that; Revolushn comes out of the gate strong with four different single-releases that eventually go on to contribute to The Freshman and add the strength of their accomplishments to their overall vision of this entire album. You’ll find them completely impossible to predict from song to song…and if you’re anything like me, it’s that element of wonderful surprise that keeps you listening to music each and every day. I think what I’ve found on The Freshman really speaks to the people out there that understand just how many places music can take us…the imaginative, the creative, the dreamers…all of you wonderful people will love what you’ll find in the sound of the way Revolushn performs together.
For the record…I doubt very much that I’ll get out entirely everything I’d want to say to you in this one review…so I’ve added Revolushn into the next episode of SBS Live This Week coming up late-tonight/tomorrow-morning. I’ve put’em in the ol’ spotlight to talk to you about’em directly and we’ll make sure to do that and get you a few more details when the next episode featuring Whiskey Kings comes up this weekend here – so make sure to drop by there and check out what else I have to say about this eight-piece band full of extreme-jammers in Revolushn!
Alright…quick cast of characters here for ya, then I wanna talk about the music I’ve found in-depth. You’ve got Jimmy Leggs (Drums, Vocals), Aaron (The Head) Connor (Bass), DEKAY (Drums), Schubert (Keyboard, Percussion), No (Songwriting, Vocals), Bobby Killer Bee (Guitar), Norita (Keyboards), and Eddie Spagetti (Bass). If writing all that out doesn’t make a reviewer feel the need to start an entirely new paragraph afterwards, I don’t know what would – but I wanted to make sure you at least knew the names of the people responsible for making the highly-versatile music you’ll find on The Freshman. Still going with a new paragraph now though – let’s talk some tunes!
One of the previously-released singles starts the adventure. “Suck It Up” comes out bursting brightly from your speakers with a solid rock-sound that immediately begins with impressive guitars that are just STUFFED with some incredible tones your ears won’t get enough of. I dig the ensemble-sound of the vocals…it might just be the two listed, No & Jimmy…but they certainly sound like an entire army of voices here on the anthem-style chorus of “Suck It Up.” And I’m honestly not sure if I’ve had the privilege of even writing this next sentence over the past four years…but NICE BRIDGE guys! If that doesn’t send a nod towards the musicians out there that they might just wanna give this record a listen or two…well…mentioning a BRIDGE in a song nowadays has got to be about the brightest flare a guy can fire off. They included a bridge guys! That alone tells you something…it tells you that these guys are both leaving behind the modern-day instincts to reduce music to verse/chorus/verse and it tells you that they’re actually WRITING. I think you can get an extraordinary glimpse of the depth of the band through this first song…and I love that you CAN do that, because at first it might very well fool you into thinking it’s just another rock-song. Already on their first tune, they’ve given you audio-clues as to just how creative and diverse they’ll be able to make the music on The Freshman…mark my words.
If you’re not a believer by the time that the first minute of “Dark Matter” is finished, I’ll eat my damn hat. What a gorgeous tune! The opening keyboards & piano-sounds are exquisite in their melody and a complete pleasure to listen to. It’s a lot less ‘typical’ of a song in its structure and a lot more chill, a lot more experimental/hypnotic in its groove and flow. Beautiful vocals enter in after the second-minute to fill the background angelically as the music continues to keep a steady, swirling and all-encompassing atmosphere. “Dark Matter” is another of their previous releases…but let’s face it, for me they’re all brand-new right now and whether or not they are to you too, you’ll notice that they’ve placed these songs perfectly on The Freshman and really let their music flow on the record fantastically. “Dark Matter” lets its dreamy-groove drop out, and the smart guitars and hollow, distant sounds of “Been Thinking” begin perfectly. Great drums & percussion stomp out a solid beat…I like the wandering-nature of “Been Thinking” – I’d be the last to say their songs are devolving here from the first to the third songs so far…I’d go as far as to claim the opposite: I think the songs completely evolve here on The Freshman and that what they might trade in terms of accessibility to a mass audience, I think they’ll gain with a loyal fan-base that understands the music of Revolushn is just as much about the art & craft of experimentation and exploration as it is making something worth listening to. Excellent layers to the vocals and overall atmosphere in “Been Thinking” – it feels refreshing…like gazing right out into the open with nothing to interfere with your view or interrupt your thoughts…loved it.
Will you go with them into the bizarre arena of experimental-electro-funk though? That’s the question. “Vulcan Love Song” rips by in less than two-minutes…so even if you’re not a fan of this one, it goes by quickly. Personally, I dig this short break in the record to break it up a little with a completely different sound than we’ve heard from Revolushn so far. I know it won’t end up being my favorite on the record by a stretch…but that speaks more to the strength of the other songs than it does to any weakness in this one. Between the clever atmosphere of “Been Thinking” and the up-tempo electro-jam of “Scarlett” – it would have been tough for any song to exist and shine brightly. I don’t think they’ve included a track I’d throw away with “Vulcan Love Song” – but I do think they’ve made a very smart choice with where they’ve placed it on this record to really allow each song to stand on its own merits as they flow throughout the album. “Scarlett” gets all-kinds of cool in its final minute; I mean, hell – it was cool already, but the way they mix up the drums and add in some extra guitar to its final moments really lit it up for me.
Inarguably however…is just how incredibly bold & sweetly “Higher” stands apart from any other song you’ll hear on The Freshman. Taking a tender moment to go acoustic and really explore a more minimal sound – everything about this song, any aspect you uncover or examine…is just like polishing diamonds to their finished result; the dynamics of this song from performance to production sparkle and shine with clarity and beauty. Absolutely gorgeous. There’s quite obviously less of the members perhaps on this song…but every single stone has been turned-over and checked on “Higher” as a result. The guitars are immaculate…pure beauty…it’s played so gently and sweetly it nearly sounds like Bobby is playing a harp! The vocals in the chorus bond together perfectly and the harmonies sound fantastic. A real departure from the rest of The Freshman – this is definitely a highlight moment on the record and a song you’ll certainly notice when it begins to start…and it’ll keep you listening right to the very end.
Once “KC” started up I checked a little more into the whole deal behind Revolushn to see if this ‘Kansas City’-inspired track was where they’re from. Nope…they’re based in San Francisco…but I did see something else that caught my eye on their social media…they’ve got themselves listed as Pop/PsychRock/Blues! Now…while it caught my attention…all I could really do was smile! I’ve certainly got no better description of their music here today than that…if ANY description defines their music at all that is! I smiled because I was chuckling to myself about just how hard it would be for this band to put themselves into any kind of genre-box…and then I was imagining the debate between EIGHT players over which THREE genres they’d go with would be. Then I took it to this whole strange place like Revolushn-meets-12 Angry Men and they’re all deliberating which genres are innocent and guilty. So I get weird sometimes…clearly so does Revolushn – I figure I’m in good company.
Anyhow…”KC” is a little more straight-and-narrow and the band jumps into rhythm-rock with a classic-feel to it. Good riffs, great drums, big chorus…it’s a bar-style anthem for sure and closer to the sound of something like “Suck It Up” than we’ve heard since that first tune on The Freshman…but I don’t know…it’s well played and written, I can’t argue that…but for some reason “KC” felt somewhat like a step backwards in terms of the progression of what we’ve heard so far and the impression & impact its left us with. “KC” is one of the older single-releases…so it has that in its defense…but after everything I’ve heard so far on The Freshman, I can’t help but want a little more of the creativity I know the band has than what sounds to me like a song they could write any given day of the week. Best way I can say it…is that pretty much every other tune on this record gives them a genuine shot at standing out, and a track like “KC” is a track that would threaten to toss them happily into the sea of sameness…it’s the least identifiable to what I think the true sound of Revolushn and their overall intentions are, in my opinion.
I’m very suspicious of “Martian Shanty Town (Live)” – but for the record, it’s definitely one of my favorites on the entire album. Also for the record – I have NO doubt that the band could pull this off this stunningly live…BUT…I’m honestly not so sure that it actually IS! I’ve heard a TON of live recordings throughout my years…even stuff that’s come directly through the sound-boards before that even cancels crowd-noise. The way they’ve got it added in here…to me almost sounds like an element added into the song post-production…but maybe I’m the crazy one? In any event…they either need to congratulate their mixologist or whoever’s responsible for the mix here…I think it would fool most people if it’s indeed not a live track – and if it IS…then congratulations guys, you fooled me! “Martian Shanty Town (Live)” isn’t necessarily a ‘darker’ tune exactly, but it broods with a seriousness and intensity that I didn’t really hear in the other tunes on The Freshman. I think it showcases and highlights another solid aspect of Revolushn’s sound and capabilities…this is a captivating performance whether it’s truly live or not. You’d almost think they pulled in Ozzy Osbourne at the outset of the vocals on this one…I absolutely loved the music as well, the chord-progressions in the bass, guitars and melody are thoroughly awesome.
The album ends on its most bizarre track and the final song that might be recognized from their previously released singles, “Alien Polka.” Meh! Lol…I really do love these guys from everything I’ve heard on The Freshman…and I even went with them on “Vulcan Love Song” – but the hardest time I had sticking with them other than “KC” came right here in the end with “Alien Polka.” In a sense, it makes sense, and I get that it ‘fits’ as an ending to this album and summation of their past two-years or more of writing…and again, wouldn’t take away from its well-written, well-played, well-produced aspects…it’s as shiny as the rest.
But…well…who in the hell out there still wants to listen to Polka music besides Weird Al Yankovic? Talk about a different spin on the 99% vs. the 1% – but that’s about where I’d put that split if I had to guess at the statistics of us all worldwide. And I certainly can’t help how I personally feel about a style that defined and ‘the way it is’ – Polka is such a rigid style of music that, even though Revolushn has done their best to innovate that sound and adopt it here on “Alien Polka” – it’s STILL 100% Polka, to me, at the end of the day…and my ears ain’t havin’ it!
Other than that…which I’ll chalk-up to Revolushn letting loose and allowing themselves to have some FUN in the studio (which is fine btw) – I’d say you’re looking at a highly-impressive set of tunes from this eight-piece band that really show a ton of capability, skill and talent shared between them. I think they’ll always keep us guessing – and I love that too; there’s absolutely no way of knowing what this band might come up with next – but I can guarantee it’ll keep you interested.
Make sure to tune into episode 048 of SBS Live This Week when we put Revolshn in the spotlight! Until then…make sure to check into them and find out more for yourself at their official page at: http://www.revolushn.com