While the debate over which recorded music format is superior (vinyl, CD and digital download, at least for right now, are the top contenders), no one who has heard it will argue against the fact that Round Eye‘s debut album was designed specifically to be experienced on vinyl. The hints are actually on the CD too, if you notice; right before “Fear The Consequence” plays on the CD, there’s a break in the running and a period of silence which would be where those playing the LP front-to-back would be flipping the vinyl over in order to play the B-side. It sort of works, but there really is no substitute for the real thing, no matter how earnest; on vinyl, the superior sound quality is perfectly self-evident because the mix feels warmer, looser and larger. Simply said, in listening, there’s no question that Round Eye’s debut was made for vinyl consumption and everything else was just deigned to be done for the sake of those who don’t own turntables.
The fact that Round Eye‘s CD incarnation is simply a “well, we should do this too” measure is perfectly self-evident from the second “Pms 2.5” introduces the album. There, listeners really get the definitive presentation of the aural spectrum upon which Round Eye is operating; that driving, mid-rich and propulsive bass is driven right up the the center of the mix on both left and right channels while horns hold court on the right and singer/guitarist Chachy’s squirrelly, speed-saturated guitar spins in circles on the left. Of course the mix is similar on the album’s CD counterpart, but it plays differently; because the mix seems more spread out on vinyl, it’s easier for listeners to get right into and inhabit these freak-punk loons’ playground with them, and quickly feel themselves reacting to the sound – pulses escalate, pupils dilate and eyes begin to dart as they attempt to follow instrumental performances and lips will begin to curl every time they hear Chachy bark and rant into a mic, There’s just no other way to qualify it other than to say that this beginning is superbly affecting and will have even the most modest listeners thinking that a walk on the wild side with this band might be fun.
Needless to say, the band will have at least a few listeners hooked right off the bat, but Round Eye doesn’t let the vibe lapse on the A-side either. Between the weird, surrealist and frenetic blasts of Stooge-y punk rock that they let rip, Round Eye keeps the energy up through tracks like “Street Light B” and “HeSheRoshima A” as well as “HeSheRoshima B”which don’t play like actual songs so much as playing like asides or preambles between explosion. While a print qualification might not exactly do it justice, the results are exhilarating and the minor imperfections which may appear in the vinyl pressing (my review copy has a couple of flaws which range from small skips to infinite loops along the way through) actually add to the mania further fuel the fun; it might seem unlikely (who wants an album which might skip? Well, they’re easy enough to fix if you’re savvy reader), but it’s undeniable – in listening.
After “HeSheRomshima B” lets listeners out of the album’s A-side, they’ll find themselves scrambling frantically to flip the record over and keep Round Eye rolling along, dementedly, and they’ll discover that the B-side accomplishes that beautifully – although not exactly in the same way. On the B-side, the basic idea is the same but the song structures firm up quite a bit as tracks like “Fear The Consequence,” “Segue For Lovers,” “(Julie’s Got A) Suntan” and “Wait/See” illustrate. In each of those cases, the band doesn’t ditch the “Freak” from their Freak-Punk melange so much as find a way to better temper it; in each of those aforementioned songs, the band hits a great balance between their ‘manic’ side and the side which writes fine punk songs and really strikes gold. It’s here that Round Eye may divide their audience, even if not on purpose; on one hand, such developments may be such developments may be seen as a conscious attempt made by the band to tame themselves down and fall in line with other punks to get a bit of popular acceptance but, the more listeners dig in, the more they’ll realize that such is not the case at all; what we’re hearing is closer to how the band might begin attempting to follow through and make a more albums which make an increasing amount of conventional sense rather than just throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.
No matter which direction Round Eye elects to go in next, there’s absolutely no question that this debut is essential (just as the Stooges’ first album was, Bad Religion’s first album was and Ween’s first album was) listening for anyone who hopes to follow along, and those who discover later albums will need to find this thing in order to understand where the band came from. Does that mean there’s a chance that this album will be the spark that ignites an all-new fire in rock’s belly? Yeah – if there’s any justice in the world at all, it does. It could happen – if the circumstances are right; cross your fingers folks, Round Eye sure sounds like just the revolution we need.
Round Eye – s/t – “City Livin’” – [mp3]
Ground Control Magazine – “ In From Out Of Nowhere – Round Eye Emerges” – [Feature Article]
Ground Control Magazine – Round Eye – s/t – [Review]
Round Eye’s North American tour begins in July and runs through August. Click here for a list of upcoming dates.