A Modern Way of Living with the Truth
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2007, Volume 14, #5
Written by John Metzger
Thu May 17, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
On its third effort Head for the Door, The Exies proved that it had become well versed in the tenets of modern rock. The band subsequently was rewarded with a pair of hit singles (Ugly and My Goddess) and a series of high profile tours. Commercial success, however, doesnít necessarily bring critical acclaim, and the album largely was met with an apathetic response from nearly everyone outside the genreís scene. After leaving its record label and making changes to both its personnel and its management, The Exies has stated, for all intents and purposes, that it is hungry for more. The groupís restlessness comes through, at least in part, on its latest endeavor A Modern Way of Living with the Truth.
Considering that existential angst always has been central to The Exiesí formula, it isnít a stretch for the group to have placed its own spin upon the Talking Headsí Once in a Lifetime. Tackled at a sluggish pace and juxtaposing quiet verses with loudly churning choruses, the song, quite effectively, is transformed into an emo anthem. It also draws attention to the theme upon which the album is based. Indeed, nearly all of the setís tracks examine the effects of the corrosion that lies at the core of materialistic societies. Much as its title suggests, A Modern Way of Living with the Truth places a particular emphasis on the manner in which people shrug off personal responsibility only to find discontented loneliness.
The problem, though, is that for a band that is intent upon shaking up the status quo, The Exies disappointingly seems to be satisfied merely with rummaging through the customary touchstones of modern rock. Sure, A Modern Way of Living with the Truth begins with the weary, acoustic Leaving Song, and it ends with Spectator at the Revolution, a folk tune that is reminiscent of John Lennonís protestations. There also is a hint of techno that filters into the title track. For the most, part, however, the group hedged its bets by choosing the safest routes to explore.
Without a doubt, there is some merit to the argument that The Exies is attempting to cause a sea change by working within the system. Nevertheless, the bandís bid to be recognized for its artistic expressions is undercut severely by its approach. Although The Exies does, on occasion, concoct music that matches the urgency of its message ó the grinding guitars and propulsive drums of Lay Your Money Down or the head-banging rush that powers A Fear of Being Alone, for example ó its hook-filled tunes, more often than not, arenít supported by its generically lackluster arrangements. In effect, the jaggedly intense edges of its songs have been polished smooth, which, in turn, has left the groupís delivery sounding utterly passionless. As it progresses, the album inevitably becomes a blur of sameness and mediocrity. By the time that front man Scott Stevens sings "it all seems the same/I need a change" on My Ordinary World, one is left wishing that he would break out of his malaise and take the risks that are necessary for making it happen.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box