Saddle The Bridge
Kill Rock Stars
By: Eric G.
Sorry to bring this up, but do you remember the way Jewel sang her breakthrough-hit song “Who Will Save Your Soul?” You know the way she sang the word ‘save’ to sound like ‘sayhehave’ in particular? How it sounded all fake and unnatural like she was trying way too hard to be soulful or something? Well, Madigan Shive sounds like that all the time. She sings with this greatly affected inflection, where she mistakes exaggeration for passion. It’s incredibly annoying. So annoying, in fact, I can barely get past it to appreciate her minimalist cello work.
To their credit, though, Madigan Shive and her two bandmates have written some stunning songs. The sound is very raw and tense, focusing on the sparsity of the cello against the simplistic percussive backdrop. “Mad Skywriting” is almost danceable with its finger-plucked (contra)bass line and Pixies-ish beat. The lyrics aren’t as embarrassing as the delivery, thankfully, but that hardly makes it worth your time. Shive’s vocals aren’t all bad all the time, though. She hits some creepy notes in “Where The Sky Below Meets The Sea Above”, and the cello certainly adds to the ominous tone. She sounds melodramatic even when she’s trying to be quiet. It’s a put on.
In “Running” Shive shows off her range, but to get to the good parts you have to sit through unbearable histrionics. Too often the interplay between the cello and the percussion takes a back seat to the showy vocals. “To Find Women In The Ocean” seems to take its cues from Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” in its rhythm and loud/soft dynamic. I am unfortunately reminded of attention-lusting new age hippies like Tori Amos and Paula Cole as I listen to the vocals. Sorry. I can’t help picturing Ms. Shive straddling her cello like it’s some sort of misshapen phallus.
This is Bonfire Madigan’s second full-length for Kill Rock Stars. If this is “more focused and refined” than the debut, I know for a fact I don’t ever want to hear it because this band has a lot more focusing and refining to do if it wants to be half-way listenable. The worst part is that this band is on the verge of something interesting, if it could just tone down the vocals. It’s much easier to relate to something that sounds honest and authentic rather than some theatrical pretense.