December 26, 2013

CD review: Outside rockers show inner strength in debut

The band promises better things to come in its self-titled EP.

By Kristin DiCara-McClellan

From the first few casually played guitar notes on Left on the Outside’s new self-titled EP, it is clear that you’re going to hear some rock.

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HOW IT RATES

“LEFT ON THE OUTSIDE”

Self-titled

Self-produced, mixed by Todd Hutchisen

•••

The whole band follows close behind, with everybody in all at once. Drums, bass, vocals, they’re all there with a calm, patient groove and before you know it, a quick, dramatic chorus has come and gone. Right away you get a sense of something to come from this alternative rock/metal outfit that hails from southern Maine.

The next tune, “Almost Over” begins with a crunchier, more mid-rangy guitar riff. After phrasing through it a few times, it then gently slips into an odd-meter feel. Kris Hype’s relaxed voicing in the mix acts a bit like a cooling force, like somebody holding back a monster with clenched fists. Eventually a lead adeptly grabs the reins with notes occasionally taking tasteful steps out of the expected patterns and then slickly moving back into the chorus.

There’s just enough musicianship to reveal a competence at the helm, but not so much to make it self-gratifying.

By the time “Travelin’ On” queues up on the player, it seems apparent that what you’re hearing here is primarily a rough sketch of a much better band that is on the way. It’s a good solid tune and the ingredients are all there.

The whole band works well together, but it’s like they’re still finding each other’s strengths. I think the best way to describe it is that it’s like cooking an elaborate meal. The ingredients have to mingle together for awhile, each one on its own tasty and good, but once heat is added, they dance and become one in the pot, swirling around for a little while before it can become pure magic.

Even still, there are good strong bones in this material.

“No More to Hide” closes the EP with what I think is their strongest presentation. Its evolution rolls out beautifully. There is just a touch more emotion to be found; really nice dynamics and a nice complementary backup vocal part to accompany the main take.

It’s like they were more patient in either the recording phase or the pre-production of it.

Whatever it is that they did differently from the other songs in putting this specific tune together, it is totally worth doing again I think. It’s a subtle, but palpable shift.

Suffice it to say, if their career is anything like this first outing, which only gets better the further you get into it, then I think they’re going to make their way just fine.

Kristin DiCara-McClellan is a Portland freelance writer.

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