The Key Of Green – Bathos – Album Review
These two freakin’ musical superhumans again eh?
It’s all about progression y’all…that’s the name of the game here. When it comes to the music being made by The Key Of Green, not only have they provided some of the most adventurous songs you’ll hear out there in the scene today, but their new album Bathos makes it pretty damn crystal clear that they’re packin’ some of the most ambitious you’ll listen to as well. Mind you, I might have made that argument with their last record that came out at the start of 2021, called Precedence & The Silent Wheel…which was indeed, an improvement over their previous debut EP, Metaphorical Fires, released the year before.
You get the picture I’m sure…each step this duo of Evan Wooley and Charles Davis have taken has led them towards tighter tunes and more monumental achievements in terms of their songs and structures. Listening to the effort being put into a record like Bathos is nothing but pure joy for a guy like me – no detail has been spared in this six-song set – it might appear like a short lineup, but we’re talkin’ about tunes with real meat on the bone…The Key Of Green doesn’t have a song less than 5:45 on the entire record – suck it radio! I’m kidding of course…we all know radio’s irrelevant & there’s no need to cater to that medium when there are a million ways to get music into us nowadays – but at the same time, there’s some validity to that musing as well…it’s almost like The Key Of Green goes into making an album with every intention of challenging the status quo of the music-scene, and listeners out there to want a lil’ more outta the music being made. Y’ain’t gonna find me complaining about that my friends – I’m all about bands like this that stockpile their tunes with tons of twists & turns to make your head spin, and if there’s one thing to be said about The Key Of Green beyond anything else, it’s that no one out there is making music like they do. Similar styles…perhaps…maybe they’re found under the umbrella of Prog/Rock & it would put them in some kind of category with others, yes…but no one has THEIR sound.
In theory…things SHOULD have been tougher this time around for The Key Of Green. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed all of Metaphorical Fires…I loved Precedence & The Silent Wheel as well – I’ve been a reliable advocate for the inherently adventurous music of this band from day one, proudly…so you’d think, that given the fact they’ve never failed in the past, I’d have assumed nothing but green lights ahead, right? Honestly…I wasn’t sure how this record was gonna come out for them…and for a brief moment or two, in learning that there were now geographical miles of distance between them – entire states in fact – I wondered if there might even BE another release from The Key Of Green – ever! If I went wrong anywhere, it was in somehow assuming a band like this wouldn’t find a way through it all – if they’re capable of navigating one of these songs on Bathos from beginning to end, then surely no such mortal obstacle as plain as mere distance would stop them from doing what they love to do. Clearly I’m here…I’ve had Bathos rollin’ on my playlists for about a month…I suppose I can happily report that none of my fears were realized…not only has the band continued on, they’ve continued to excel in their craft.
And as of this morning in the wee hours of the night, their brand-new album is officially available online.
Right off the “Bats,” this duo comes out swingin’ for the fence this time around as their new record begins. A perfect example of what I love about the way this band writes…every bit as much as what amazes me about it…”Bats” is the kind of cut where, once you cycle through what you FEEL like is the first verse & chorus, you’ll notice you’ve still got more than the vast majority of the song to go – you will revisit these parts along the way, of course – but wait until you hear just how much more there is loaded into a song like this to go with these main parts. It gets to the point where, you have to recognize that, with all the twists & turns The Key Of Green takes in their music, to get it all as RIGHT as we hear it to be, would take monumental effort, dedication, commitment, focus, and execution to achieve in-full. Like…speaking as a dude that has less than the short-term memory of a Goldfish, honestly, I’m astonished at what they can REMEMBER…it’s not as if what you’re hearing is painstakingly cut from a whole series of takes gone wrong y’all…hell nah…these boys can PLAY, and they prove that instantly. I’d love to say my comment on them being superhuman at the start was some kind of hyperbole, but this album…hell, their CATALOG of tunes confirms that it’s not…any musician worth their own salt would appreciate what The Key Of Green puts into what they do and how much is going into it. Of the six cuts on Bathos, there’s an argument to be made that this first track has the highest degree of overall accessibility – but that’s the most I’m conceding to ya – and I don’t think a band as creative as this should ever dumb down or cater to the masses anyhow. You’ll hear what I’m talking about…it’s not just a matter of switching things up structurally from moment to moment, The Key Of Green will blaze through a whole series of STYLES of music in the process…and that’s perhaps the greatest attribute of them all when it comes to the inventive ideas on display throughout “Bats.” There’s a brilliant Funk groove on guitar to start it out, courtesy of their main axe-man Evan…then you slide right into a HUGE roll through Progressive Rock vibes…soulful vocals via Charlie D…Pop hooks…a golden-era warmth…even references to Honky Tonk twang…sensational solos from Wooley…relentless drums that pound intensity into the mix…I mean shit y’all – what’s not to love about the smorgasbord of sound they’ve cooked up? I also think the vocal hook of “don’t you wanna get, get, a little bit, a little bit bats” comes out way more addictive than most of ya are gonna realize at first; it’s one of the few moments in a cut like this that draws up potential comparisons, however brief it may be…there’s a real comforting melody there that reaches right to the history of Rock and its golden era…and it works brilliantly. Other moments, like the straight-up KILLER stomp they apply to the 3:30 mark might remind ya of the attack something like King’s X brings to their music…or maybe around the 4:10 mark in the solos, you might feel like The Key Of Green has shifted into an updated version of Blue Oyster Cult…these songs are SO BIG and move through such an impressively intricate sequence of events, “Bats” becomes wildly malleable & equally irresistible, if you ask me. I suppose that someone did…so there you go, I’m tellin’ ya – you’ve been told.
Every time I listen to “Antlers,” I’m amazed by the fact that by the time I get to about the 2:30 mark, I feel like I’ve already experienced an entire record’s worth of great ideas in that time-frame alone, never mind the fact there’s still a healthy five-minute’s worth of “Antlers” still to follow! To a degree, this is something I actually run into fairly frequently in a way…although the real difference is, whereas most times I end up in this scenario, someone’s leaving something on the table that could have been further explored or mined for all the awesomeness of its potential, The Key Of Green manages to give you just the right amount of pretty much everything you’ll hear, leaving you wanting for nothing more than what you get. I’m not hearing that one part of a song where I’m like, man, I wish they went back to that for a moment or two, etc. – if they needed to, if it suited the song, they probably did – otherwise, it’s one of a series of rapid sections of a song that continually gets more & more intense, and builds along the way. My point is, they’re not nearly as concerned with specific verses & choruses like so many bands tend to be – they’re looking at music as a much larger vehicle than that, capable of traveling many more miles. Like…the best way to put it perhaps, to the average everyday listener out there, is that…yes…these will end up being considered to be Prog-Rock tunes for the most part by the critics & people that need to put’em in some kind of box…but what we’re really talking about here, is actual composition. Composition and the talent to achieve some monumental writing…both of these things…I mean…it’d still be great to even half of these skills, but it’s the fact they’ve got both that makes everything all work, and has us sticking with it. Obviously I’m not here to be the guy to sell ya on every song – I fully recognize that the commitment of listening to a song like “Antlers” for many people out there is far, far beyond the three-minutes of sing-along hooks they’re willing to spare for a day…but you’re genuinely sellin’ yourself short if that’s the case, believe me. And you deserve to treat yourself better than that, so do. The Key Of Green’s biggest advantage in securing their dedicated fan-base is gonna be the same thing that works against them when it comes to the mainstream masses…but that’s a trade well worth making if you ask me. Every time they head into the sixth-minute of “Antlers,” I’m at full-musical-mast if ya know what I’m sayin’ – the way they hit the finale of this song is nothing less than one of the most exquisitely intense rides you’re gonna take to get to the end of a cut this year, straight-up. They’re like an accessible version of The Mars Volta by the time “Antlers” is at its peak intensity…and it is GLORIOUS to listen to these guys pound out the hard stuff like they are here. Consider where you started – “Antlers” would have you believing for a forty-seconds or so at the start that you’re about to be in-store for some classically-based kind of sound…but after that initial intro, they keep the sound gnarly & grimy, funky & chunky, and comin’ at ya with neon, sensory vibes. Listen to moments like around the two-minute mark will ya? The instrumental section around this spot…drums, bass, guitars…you name it – we’re talkin’ about seriously involved sound, played with supreme confidence…it’s bloody magnificent to experience. “Antlers” is a wildly innovative tune…brilliant vocal moments like the groove they lock into around the 3:45 mark…smart backing vocals arrive around that spot as well…there’s a theatrical bend in the music of The Key Of Green that’s really rare; the kind that’s welcome, and not annoying.
I just really have a ton of respect for the way these guys write & perform. I listen to a song like “Thieves” and that’s pretty much the first thing they get me thinking about, every time – especially Charles at the start of this one, leading the way through the beginning as he sings. Think of it like this though – when was the last time you heard music of any kind, that seemed so different, it’s like the artist or band you listen to ‘forgot the rules’ and forgot basically anything they’d ever even heard of prior. Like…as if music was a completely foreign entity up to this point, but Evan and Charles had the natural skills for it, and were left entirely to their own devices to see what they’d organically come up with, without any influence at all – you following me? That’s how tangible the uniqueness of The Key Of Green really is. “Skirmish, ruckus, horns are locked…his head collides with solid rock” – I had to Google how to SPELL skirmish y’all; I never claimed to be the brightest crayon in the box to begin with, but my point is that they not only reach for uniqueness in their music, sound, and compositions – but also the words as well. And we love that about Charles Ryan Davis…we’ve loved that about his solo tunes that I’ve previously reviewed here, we’ve loved that about the past music of The Key Of Green – his warped poetic style and signature sound are part & parcel of his approach to the craft, and a large part of what will keep the people listening. But really – who are you left with to compare The Key Of Green to on a song like “Thieves?” I’m about to invoke seriously hallowed ground here…even though the sound itself might be radically different, when we’re talking about effort, structures, ideas, vocals, composition, and artistic courage…there’s actually only ONE name that SHOULD come to mind as you ride through a song like “Thieves” – and that’s Queen. And I wish I could communicate somehow, in words, just how very, very long I’ve been waiting for anyone in the independent scene that could bring that comparison outta me…this is a genuinely special moment in time y’all…and I will remember this. Charles might not be going for the giant grandiose vocal moments of a Mercury, but his overall versatility & creativity is well comparable – and the ambitious design of a song like “Thieves” certainly speaks to similarly imaginative ideas. Or listen to the guitars around the forty-second mark for example…moments like that might even remind you of Queen as well…or like around the ninety-second mark with how the vocals thicken with the harmonies…or twenty-seconds later when The Key Of Green drifts into a lullaby/prayer mid-song – these are unique twists & turns that are all their own, yes – but the adventurous & ambitious spirit, the amount of details and sheer effort this would take on all fronts makes Queen a completely direct & apt comparison. A track like “Thieves” will give you more of a…hmm…let’s say modern, edgy sound to go with the style of writing we’re talking about – but yeah man…if we’re talking about straight-up odysseys into the realm of how music can tell a full story, that are capable of taking you on a complete trip outta your world to bring you somewhere else altogether – like I said…you’ll find the comparison is valid – and even better yet, fucking EARNED. This is a compelling cut without question…and it somehow covers all the bases in an effortless way, while every one of us listening would still know this takes ALL the effort to create, you dig? You get really Progressive-based ideas here on “Thieves” – but still a huge degree of accessible appeal and genuinely interesting sound the people listening could readily stick with, largely as a result of the story Davis is weaving through this twisted tale…listeners will wanna know how this tale ends up by the time it’s over, and there’s just as much value in that being done right for some, as any guitar solo could provide to others. They keep on givin’ ya the best of both worlds – and it’s workin’ out.
Love the murky, mysterious, and malevolent vibes that creep up through the start of “Hoodlums” – killer ideas on the guitars, sensational drums in the mix as well…and they make brilliant use of the lefts to the rights throughout the first minute-plus of intro on the way in to this cut too. If this is what it sounds like “being really good at getting worse,” as Charles is singin’ about…then I need to take classes from these cats on how to get worser myself! Because I’ll be honest with ya…this whole album is a LOT more interesting than I’ve ever been, full-stop. Evan’s making a serious case for being a guitar HERO that listeners out there…the ones that are paying 100% attention to every note, are gonna love what this guy comes up with continuously, and the fluidity of his technique & how he plays – it’s honestly extraordinary. The man’s got skills to be verifiably reckoned with, and can light-up a fret-board at sheer will whenever he feels like it, or drop right into an extra riff to add to the fringes of the awesomeness you’re already witnessing…these guys hear the other opportunities that exist in the space of music, and understand how to fill it right, without any of it FEELING as full as it sincerely IS. “Hoodlums” makes for one of the most defined atmospheres, auras, and vibes of any song on this record, really diggin’ into the dirt for the depths of its sound and hittin’ up the twisted roots of all-things-Rock in the finest of forms. The first 1:10 of this cut alone should blow your mind right outta the top of your skull…but assuming you’re lucky enough to survive this sonic savagery, you’ll be pleased by the innovative adventure that comes afterwards as well. A tale that proudly heads from the light into the dark like it’s a badge of honor, “some things just come natural,” as Davis will tell ya…and yep, that includes mischief in copious amounts too. We all tend to look at evolution and the refinement of our talents & skills as an inherently good thing – “Hoodlums” dares to take a look at the other side of the coin…like what if you what you were best at, was being bad? The final twists of “Hoodlums” are some of the sweetest just desserts you’ll find in music, ever…our anti-hero here, ends up with a full table of a family of his own by the end, having to now reckon with the fact that, those same mischievous genes have now been passed down the line to his own kids. If this ain’t the stuff of every parents nightmares…I’m not sure what else could be – for some of you previously misbehavin’ folks out there, “Hoodlums” will not only open your eyes to the future you might very well be in-store for…it might just keep you awake at night permanently. Of course…I don’t have the FACTS of the story…this is just my theory…but if I’m hearing it right, that’s more or less what I’d wager “Hoodlums” is all about…the cycle of life in the oddest of ways, but every bit as possible as the good scenarios we imagine we’re destined for so automatically. “Hoodlums” is a really clever story all-in-all…damn entertaining too, and a much more tangible tale for all of us to follow overall. Ultimately, it sounds like Davis has got a very realistic perspective here – given the fact that he was undoubtedly a hoodlum himself during his youth, he’s at peace with the idea that the past is gonna eventually catch up to him. And I’d imagine it probably does one day…I think that’s when the kids reach the teenage years…that oh-so-wonderful point where all the colors of our hairs turn to grey, if they haven’t somehow managed to cause them all to fall out altogether. What do I know anyway? I don’t have kids…and there’s a good chance that the true reason for that is outlined within this very song here.
And here we are…just like that…after what’s already been a completely badass ride through the first four cuts on Bathos, we arrive at the…hmmm…whaddya call it again? Epic doesn’t quite cover it…the centerpiece would work in a pinch I suppose…but they deserve better…the MAGNUM OPUS – there we go! That’s the term I was looking for. At just shy of ten full minutes, “the outburst is real” to say the freakin’ LEAST yo – “Outbursts” is one seriously beefy tune! This is another highlight example of the uniqueness of The Key Of Green though…because it would be damn near impossible for anyone out there listening to really know for sure if the chicken came before the egg, you dig? Most songs out there in this world, I’d reckon, are usually the result of a formula that starts with the music first – and that still may very well be the case in a band such as this – but it SOUNDS like the songs are every bit as much designed around the words, which is something extremely special and The Key Of Green’s sound overall. Think of it like this…imagine you had a complete story that you wanted to tell…and you didn’t want to cut out a character or a single line of what you’d written – you’d find a way around that, right? That’s what I love about songs like “Outbursts” – because it feels like no compromise was discussed, needed, or necessary…like there’s an inherent understanding between this mammoth Wooley and good ol’ Chucky D here, that instinctually proves that this band knows that the words & full tale is every bit as important as the music is. “How does it feel to burst out loud?” asks Davis? I mean…if I’m being honest with ya, it seems to come with both its ups & downs based on the storyline you’ll hear…and maybe a little on the confusing side of our thoughts & feelings – but that being said, it sure as hell SOUNDS good! “Outbursts” is The Key Of Green fully unleashed when it comes right down to it…this is a PERFORMANCE y’all…and one to be extremely proud of; they work their way through a massive length of distance on this cut, and I can’t imagine any damn one of you listening ever getting bored or restless along the way. I don’t know much about ya…but with the average attention span coming in at a whopping less-than three-minute threshold, you begin to understand the achievement a song like “Outbursts” is. The authenticity of the band rings true big-time on cuts like this one…it’s as ALIVE as it is innovative, unique, and inventive…quite simply, you haven’t heard a song like “Outbursts” before most likely, maybe a piece here & there that MIGHT remind you of something…maybe…but for the vast majority of a nearly ten minute song to come out sounding this fresh and exciting, inspired and creative, is truly something else to experience. Is it MY favorite on the record? I don’t know that I’d go that far; I’d readily tell ya that this is an indisputably award-worthy performance being put on by The Key Of Green and a complete raising of the stakes when it comes to Progressive songwriting all-around for the independent scene – I’m probably like many of you and more partial to cuts like “Bats” or “Thieves” or whatever the heck, but if this ten minute exploration into artistic expression was your favorite jam, you’d get no resistance from me. On the merits of their ambitions and remarkable composition alone, this track should have no problem winning you over – it’s rambunctious and morphs in about a million directions along the way, but this has as much plot & storyline as you’d find within any movie from start to finish – and how often do you run into music that makes ya feel like that? A ten minute tune is always gonna be a tall ask of any listener out there, even the most dedicated, even when a band or artist is at their very best – heck, sometimes it’s just a matter of what we can fit in on our drive to the 9-5 and some folks ain’t got all that far to go to get to the office even – but you don’t go into making a song like “Outbursts” without already knowing that. It’s always gonna be fair to say that the longer cuts are gonna appeal to a narrower audience, but that’s only in terms of scope – that same slice of the pie will be filled with some of the most open-minded listeners, lovers of art, and dedicated fans that The Key Of Green will be fortunate to have. You know what you’re in for if you’ve been listening to the way this band has progressed over time – you can imagine their vibe gaining strength & confidence as anyone would with more experience – “Outbursts” is like The Key Of Green reaching for that next level and stretching their artistic ambitions once again; if you’re not entertained, know that it says much more about you than it does about them.
I’m in love with the guitars you’ll hear between the 2:00-2:30 mark in the final cut, “Spikes” – but I don’t want that seeming like I ain’t lovin’ ALL of what I heard on this last tune, which I most definitely have been. “MAKE ME LIKE BOWSER BABY!” is gonna go down in independent music history as one of the best lines in any cut out there – it’s as “classic” of a moment as they say it is. Another amazing example of their hybrid versatility in action though…we roam through spots that might remind you of Pink Floyd for a second or two as they head towards the fourth minute…and it won’t be long at all after that before you’ll feel like you’re listening to something more soulful from a modern-day combo of R&B as they head towards to finale – you recognize the distance between these two poles of measurement, yes? Believe me when I tell ya, there’s a LOT more involved than merely those two observations I’ve made…in fact, the majority of the song isn’t really in either of those gears at all – but that only further proves the point I’m making about just how much The Key Of Green adds to their material, and how impressive it is that it all seems to WORK somehow. Like…if you were to map all this out on paper, I swear it’d probably make ya laugh out loud in the same way that “The Black Page” would have intimated & inspired anyone that’s ever looked at it…it’d be the most crooked-ass line between point-A to point-B that you’d ever see in your LIFE…yet somehow, these two dudes navigate the impossible with ease, if not completely THRIVE in the pursuit of creating complexities others would never even dare to attempt. I am gonna have to be THAT guy that tells you Davis might have the biggest highlight of his career with this particular cut and the way he sings it…the way he hits the heights of that moment around the 4:30 mark…the way he transitions into the smoothest soulful groove to finish “Spikes” off on remarkably stylistic notes…I mean, the man’s been nailin’ it throughout this whole album without a doubt, but to me, the strengths he reveals here in this last track made for continual highlight after highlight. I don’t know if the plucked muted-strings of the guitar were necessarily intended to act like the musical “Spikes” they become in how they punctuate the music of this cut, but given the fact that The Key Of Green doesn’t seem to ever leave anything out of their ideas…I’d have to assume that it IS intentional, and therefore, bloody genius. It’s just one of a million tiny fragments of a song like “Spikes” that leads it to victory…and the same high degree of attention to detail could easily be cited within any tune on this entire album…The Key Of Green didn’t skimp on a damn thing in the lineup of Bathos. It’s extremely tough to continually reveal evolution in a career every moment along the way, but so far, this band is an undeniable three for three, they just keep on getting better with every record. Not a doubt in my mind that Bathos is their best to-date…and in a year that’s been filled with exceptional music, it’s still gonna stand out for its riotously adventurous & skillfully designed songs. Even more importantly, it’s the kind of record that’s going to hold up strong over time…you’re never going to listen to an album like Bathos and NOT hear something NEW, every single time you listen – and the value in that, is priceless as can be.
Find out more about The Key Of Green from their official page at Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Key-of-Green-105994620996025
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