There is a fair share of oddities floating around in the realm of mainstream music, considering the general tendency of the pop culture faithful to revamp their musical tastes in the most capricious of fashions. But there is always this fall back point of familiarity that any band in the current rock scene tends to exhibit, and VAST seems all too willing to keep an anchored center insofar as their front person is concerned. Say what you will about vocalists who tend to be derivative in their approach, front man and principle songwriter Jon Crosby pulls off an uncanny homage to Bono with perhaps a slight tinge of emotional aggression in the mode of THE CURE’s Robert Smith.
Although stylistically this album tends to walk a fine line between early 80s New Wave/Goth Rock and their even more modernist cousin of post-Grunge Alternative Rock, for its style it sort of meanders between songs. Even after repeated listens, if you take “Nude” all the way from start to finish, you’ll find yourself struggling to recall what you’ve just heard. Certain individual tracks like “Lost” and “Turquoise” stand out well because they stick the closest to the post-Punk sensibilities of the original Goth Rock scene and rely on a consistent blend of atmospheric keyboards and minimalist grooves. But others like “Desert Garden”, “Winter In My Heart” and “I Need To Say Goodbye” just simply come and go musically, not able to distinguish themselves from dozens of other Acoustic Rock songs dominating the radio in the last 10 years, and are bolstered only by Crosby’s vocal constancy.
The whole listen basically functions as a musical bank and forth between well realized tributes to DEAD CAN DANCE meets U2 and mediocre Alternative/Pop caprices with a few studio gimmicks here and there. There isn’t necessarily a slow start up to this, nor does it really fade at the end; but instead this album constantly exhibits this sense of uncertainty that keeps it from shacking up to true classics like “Pornography” or “Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun”. It occasionally will exhibit characteristics of these albums, as well as several others during the glory days of the early to mid-80s New Wave explosion, but unfortunately gets itself lost in sectional meandering or over-emphasis on non-traditional sound effects and ambiences. Essentially “Nude” has trouble deciding whether it wants to be a rock album or a film score collection from some obscure Sci-Fi flick.
A lot of reviews have already pegged this album’s lack of stylistic simplicity as the principle flaw of this release, but I think there is definitely an audience for this approach to rock music, provided that the rough edges in the songwriting get smoothed out a little and a stronger emphasis is placed on catchy melodies. If more attention was paid to writing harder rock songs like “Turquoise” and “Thrown Away” and the band lightened up a little on the mostly acoustic ballads, this would be a lot more accessible. How much other stuff you like mixed in with your post-Punk/post-Grunge will ultimately determine whether this will be worth your money.
(Online August 16, 2008)