A Matter of Physics
T.J. Simon's #16 album for 2002
First Appeared at The Music Box, August 2002, Volume 9, #8
Written by T.J. Simon
Once in a blue moon, every music fan comes across a new band with a release that hits the proverbial sweet spot of brilliant tunes, artful instrumentation, emotive singing, and thoughtful lyrics that speaks directly to his or her soul. A disc of that nature can be so good that itís hard to remove it from the CD player much less the jukebox inside oneís head. Lately my inner nickelodeon canít seem to shake the sounds of a relatively unknown band from Chicago called Carbonfour.
Carbonfour is a young power pop group centered around the keyboards and vocals of Nels Stromborg and the guitar of Andy Kamm. A Matter of Physics, the bandís debut album, is one of those remarkable releases that sounds great on the first listen and just gets better with the passage of time. Stromburgís voice is rich, soulful, and unique ó think Eddie Vedder-meets-Roland Orzabal-meets-Ed Kowalcyzk. Kammís guitar is evocative of early U2, and his power chords mesh nicely with Stromburgís keyboards to produce a layered sonic landscape on each finely-crafted song. The only gripe with this otherwise solid album is that the piano often gets lost in the mix due to the guitar-focused production. But in the grand scheme of things, this serves as a relatively minor distraction.
A Matter of Physics is relatively short (by todayís bloated standards) for a debut album, with only eight tracks spanning just under thirty minutes. Yet, each of those songs is a real gem, starting with the emotional Most Of, a U2-sounding cut that builds to a crescendo before winding down to a pretty piano solo. Lyrically, the strongest number is Pretentious Yet Lame, a powerfully written indictment of self-pity with colorful imagery and a haunting melody. In addition, Carbonfour pays homage to the Tears for Fears songbook with Bullet and the discís finest cut White Flags and Radio Waves. In these tunes, Stromburg sings about emotional distance over Kammís distinctive acoustic guitar and studio-layered vocals.
Carbonfour also has solid live chops as evidenced by a recent set at Chicagoís MOB (Music Over Business) Fest that left the amazed audience begging for more. It would be nice to mine the depths of a rich catalog filled with hidden treasure indie discs, but A Matter of Physics is currently the only Carbonfour album on the market. Itís a helluva intro to a band that seems to have a lot to say. While most groups go through entire careers without releasing anything as good as this disc, these guys nailed it on the first shot. Give it a buy, and youíll have no regrets.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box