Thomas Giles - Modern Noise - (7/10)
Published on November 13, 2014
Live in the now!
Most will be familiar with Thomas Giles Rogers (Jr.) as the frontman for the wildly successful (and certifiably awesome) Between The Buried And Me, where he goes by the far more casual moniker “Tommy,” but Modern Noise is actually his third solo venture. Giles intends Modern Noise to represent his “current noise on the earth,” and the album showcases Rogers’ more mellow side to successful, if not transcendent, effect.
“We all are here for a short amount of time and the noise we make is our memory.” #WoahDeep
Fear not, lest the opening electric flurry of “Wise And Silent” raise concerns of a return to the electronic excess of Rogers’ first solo outing, Giles (2004); Modern Noise is a guitar-centric record that has a lot in common with classic prog rock. The production may be updated and electronic elements abound, but there’s an underlying tone akin to latter day Pink Floyd and, to a lesser extent, Rush that remains consistent throughout the record. In particular, “I Appear Disappear” – “a story about a man who has another head attached to his, [so] he decides to kill both of them” – boasts a wonderfully David Gilmour-esque solo, courtesy of Rogers’ Between The Buried And Me bandmate Paul Waggoner.
Modern Noise also sees Rogers reunite with original Between The Buried And Me drummer, Will Goodyear (Grohg), who also played with Rogers in their original band, Prayer For Cleansing and longtime Between The Buried And Me producer, Jamie King. Goodyear’s contribution makes for a far more organic experience than Rogers’ previous two outings, where Rogers handled everything including drum programming, even if the songs themselves aren’t as strong as those found on 2011’s magnificent Pulse. However, Modern Noise’s more successful and enjoyable moments do tend to be those heavier and less departed.
“Siphon The Bad Blood” is the best track here, boasting a wondrous groove reminiscent of Devin Townsend’s bass-driven Ki (2009) or even the less hectic moments of 2011’s Deconstruction (on which Rogers contributed to its strongest track, “Planet Of The Apes”), and wouldn’t sound amiss on the man’s most recent opus, Sky Blue. “Wander Drug” is another strong built around its instantly catching guitar lick, with the more upbeat “M3” not really sounding all that far removed from Between The Buried And Me once it kicks into gear, even if Rogers never fully engages his harsher vocal style.
(Edit: here is the newly released video for that
aforementioned “best track” on the album)
It’s not all good news however. “Blueberry Queen” is a really awful mid-album track that sounds like an odd, downbeat riff on Van Halen’s legendary “Ice Cream Man,” which may have worked if, like that classic track, it had been unexpectedly tacked on at the album’s end as an added surprise, rather than serving as the Modern Noise’s lynchpin track – severely disrupting the momentum of the two more fully –fledged tracks preceding it. Likewise, the title track, which serves as the album’s finale, is mostly instrumental, electronic track that builds to a soaring crescendo before unexpectedly tapering off, like “Noise Upon” before it, and perhaps would have made for a better lead into the haunting “Wander Lonely.” As it is, Modern Noise’s bookend, intro/outro numbers and its middling interlude don’t really add that much to proceedings and what effect they do have is largely detrimental.
Despite its more reserved musical outlook, there’s a lot about Modern Noise that will appeal to Between The Buried And Me fans and traditional prog fans alike, as well as those more inclined toward softer, alternative rock (hardly surprising coming from a guy who named his band after a Counting Crows lyric). Yet, at odds with it’s more considered, personal themes, this is an album that feels loosely hung together and inconsistently punctuated.
Pulse was a really great album that stands on its own; Modern Noise is more of a curiosity. It’s successful in expressing Rogers’ notion of “I’m here, this is who I am, and I have a penchant for looking serious in flannel shirts,” and there’s a lot of good stuff here but it’s a mixed bag, and the better stuff would have probably been more suited to punching up or otherwise offering reprieve on the next Between The Buried And Me album. Modern Noise offers an engaging and pleasant listening experience, but – true to its ‘of the moment’ ethos – also a largely fleeting one.
For fans of:
Devin Townsend, Pink Floyd, Between The Buried And Me
Devin Townsend – Sky Blue
Pink Floyd – Endless River