Entertainment Magazine

District 97 - Trouble With Machines

Posted on the 19 December 2012 by Ripplemusic
District 97 - Trouble With Machines
“Hey Penfold!  What’s up?”
“Ah nothing much.  Same old, same old.”
“Wait a second Pen.  Are you trying to tell me that you haven’t been listening to any new music since I saw you last week?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.  You know I’m always looking for something new and exciting to listen to, and this past week was no different.”
“That’s what I thought!  Dude, you’re a machine.  A music loving machine!”
“It’s true.  I can’t deny it.”
“Well don’t hold out on me man!  Did you hear anything interesting?”
“Actually I did.  There’s this group called District 97 that I discovered just a few days ago.”
“District 97 huh?”
“Yep, District 97.  The funny-slash-embarrassing thing about the past week was how close I came to dismissing them before hearing a single second of their music.”
“Oh come on Penfold!  Based on albums I know you’ve sat through in the past that can’t be true.  You give everything a chance!”
“I’m afraid it is my friend.  Your ‘machine’ comment was right on the money in more ways than one.  That’s the trouble.”
“What are you talking about Pen?”
“Well it seems that oftentimes, like a machine, I fall into a couple of bad habits.”
“And those are?”
“First and foremost, I sometimes read a band’s bio sheet before listening to any of their music.  That’s a big no-no.”
“Why’s that?”
“Reading those bios is counterproductive because I will inevitably make powerful assumptions about whether or not I am going to like what I hear.  District 97 is a perfect example.  I read portions of their bio sheet before hitting play on the album stream.  The first thing that drew my attention was that after the band initially formed they ‘honed a no-holds barred style of Liquid Tension Experiment-inspired instrumental rock’.”
“Penfold you loved Liquid Tension Experiment back in the day.”
“That’s very true.  I loved LTE to a fault, but I haven’t listened to those albums or really wanted to listen to that style of hyper-technical music for a while now.  Right off the bat I cast aspersions on District 97.  Then I read a little more of the bio sheet and my eyes stopped dead in their tracks.”
“What, was there something about your mother in there?”
“Ha, ha.  Very funny.  No what I read was far worse than any insult to my immediate family or lineage, at least when it comes to the mindset of a music curmudgeon like me.”
“Out with it man!  Don’t keep me in suspense!”
“It turns out that the lead singer for District 97 had been a finalist on American Idol back in 2007.”
“You’re kidding?!”
“Nope.  She was one of the last 10 female contestants that year.  I don’t have to tell you I hold very little regard for anything associated with American Idol do I?”
“Penfold, I assure you that your opinions concerning that show are well known.”
“Exactly.  Based solely on my negative views of the show, without any concrete evidence, I assumed I would have a negative reaction to this band.  To make matters worse I made a second big mistake that by now I should know to avoid.”
“What was your second mistake?”
“I looked at the band’s photo.”
“And that’s bad why?”
“It’s very simple.  When it comes to bands or singers your eyes will deceive you more times than not.  At the very least the visuals will reinforce whatever stereotype, positive or negative, that you have attached to them.  This was the case with District 97.  The picture of the band was very simple, with four normal looking guys and an attractive young lady in the middle.  Because I’d attached the ‘super technical’ label to this band it made sense that each of the guys looked like me, bespectacled and a little nerdy.  For a music reviewer…scratch that.  For a music fan in general this is dangerous territory.”
“Okay.  I get it.  What happened next?”
“I begrudgingly hit the play button and listened to the first song.”
“Based on where this conversation began I’m going to go out on a limb and say you liked what you heard.”
“Ding ding ding!  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!  I not only liked what I heard, I was transfixed for the next fifty five minutes and however many seconds it took to listen to the entire album.  It was fantastic!”
“That good huh?  Were any of your assumptions correct?”
“Not even close.  Make no mistake; District 97 is a progressive metal band.  What they are not however is a band that crams a million notes a minute down the listener’s throat.  Their music is certainly technical and intricate, but the focus is placed firmly on their song craft.  What I mean by that is I didn’t initially notice all of the crazy time changes and tempo shifts.  The wickedly strong melody lines and emotional depth of each song was what really caught my ear.  Listening for the second and third time revealed all that hidden depth.  Honestly, I can’t imagine the difficulties one would face in transcribing this music.”
“What about the singer?”
“Oh my goodness!  She is tremendous!  What a voice!  So much power, charisma, and versatility.  Seriously, I was blown away from start to finish.  The interplay between her voice and the band is magical!  It really drives the melodies home when the vocals mirror either the keyboard or guitar lines.  The band uses this to great effect throughout the album.  Very, very impressive!”
“Alright, so what song should I listen to first?”
“Dude every song is great!  That being said, my two favorites off the album are ‘Open Your Eyes’ and ‘Who Cares?’.  I love the off time riffing throughout ‘Open…’ and ‘Who Cares?’ is super smooth.  That song builds and builds upon itself until the band drops the hammer and the guitarist positively rips into a short solo.  The music calms down for a moment and then everything is taken to eleven again to wrap up the song!  I’m not going to lie.  It’s righteous stuff.”
“Righteous huh?  If I didn’t know any better I’d say you were telling me to buy this District 97 album as quickly as possible.  Do I have that right Pen?”
“Yes.  Without question.”
“And you’re ready to give American Idol a shot this year?”
“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.”


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