When Days of the New released its first album two years ago, the Louisville quartet played a style of music that hadn't sounded new since the first Pearl Jam album. The band's second effort, "Days of the New" (Outpost), bears the same title as the first, but is considerably more of a novelty. Singer-songwriter Travis Meeks (who also produced the disc and played guitar, bass and drums) is now the concertmaster for an ensemble of some 40 musicians and singers, and he uses this sonic battery to re-imagine grunge as a near-operatic experience.
Such Days of the New precursors as Nirvana and Pearl Jam had a taste for grandeur, too, but their punk ethic argued against string sections and choirs. Meeks, however, is no punk. With this album, he takes heavy-metal bombast back to its origins in such wildly pretentious but still visceral bands as the Doors, the Who and especially Led Zeppelin. Although "I Think" revisits the primal power chords of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me," the album mostly features multilayered acoustic guitars, faux-symphonic percussion and grand orchestral and choral arrangements. There's some synthesizer, too, but Meeks clearly prefers constructing his epic soundscapes with traditional instruments.
The more delicate passages--the woodwind solo on "Weapon and the Wound," say--aren't exactly rock-and-roll, but Days of the New shouldn't have much trouble stirring the crowd at the 9:30 club tonight. Such songs as "The Real," "Not the Same" and "Phobics of Tragedy" are well supplied with crescendos, both musical and emotional. The 20-year-old Meeks didn't trade in his adolescent turmoil when he discarded the customary hard-rock template: "Pain is my pill . . . I've lost my pill now I'm numb/ Down on my knees waiting to die," proclaims the album's histrionic opener, "Flight Response." Perhaps the songwriter's musings will someday catch up with his skills as a composer and arranger, but for now Days of the New swells like neo-Wagnerian teen spirit.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8172.)
Indian-born Vancouver rocker Bif Naked, who will open for Days of the New tonight, also borrows a Kinks chord progression for her new album. Other than that, however, she and Meeks have little in common. Naked's attitude and adornments are up-to-date: She's straight-edge (no alcohol, drugs or cigarettes), sings of erotic attraction to both men and women, and sports an array of piercings and tattoos on the cover of her "I Bificus" (Lava/Atlantic). Still, the singer's catchy but characterless pop-rock wouldn't have sounded radical on '80s Top 40 radio. Indeed, if Naked and her collaborators had penned "Lucky" 15 years earlier, it might have been a hit for Pat Benatar.
Naked has some complaints, too, yet she doesn't take them too seriously: "Spaceman" is about her unrequited desire to be abducted by a UFO, while the break-up put-down "Moment of Weakness" is too jaunty to be bitter. "Violence" denounces brutality in earnest but uninspiring terms, but "Twitch" merely has fun with the riff from the Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night" and the chorus from the Angels' "My Boyfriend's Back." Ultimately the album is more playful than preachy, but in either mode Naked has little to say.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8173.)
CAPTION: Something old: Bif Naked offers catchy pop-rock, with an up-to-date look.