Rather Vapid is the one-man project of Jay Vogel. Based in Baltimore, his debut, self-titled album Rather Vapid slides along a spectrum between ambient and heavy. It explores the dark corners where one may curl up when faced with loneliness and isolation in an unfamiliar place. While the distant vocals establish the backdrop for scenes of failed fresh starts and lousy first dates, the sudden bursts of screeching guitar riffs act as the bottled-up emotions boiling over. Lyrically, Vogel draws upon his experiences as a young adult moving out to Colorado to convey the anguish and resentment that festers when the thrill of escape begins to fade. Despite this, the arc of the album comes to a promising resolution as Vogel reaches acceptance and rediscovers an admiration for his hometown in Maryland. Many of the chord choices he uses are influenced by the dissonant open chords from bands like Deftones and Primus, while the composition and lyrical style are influenced by bands like Cloakroom, Drug Church and Microwave.
The opening to “While One” rages with wild furry and a full throttled sound, rich and distorted. Vogel’s style of singing is kind of a mix between industrial new wave and goth and some front man who sings in the shoe-gaze style. This one’s a good sludgy opener. “Red Grey” has more force and energy, biting and edgy like a post-grunge number. “A Certain Type of Lighting” is quite good with its minor chord treatment – very chilling. The highlight for me was the chorus or the bridge part leading up to it. Some parts of the guitar on the verses reminded me of Cobain’s sound on “Heart Shaped Box” but this song was definitely harder and darker and disturbing in every way. Not sure what this song is about lyrically but – “My parts don't respond like they used to when / I had yet to plunge into the vacuum” and earlier “Weird nose / short hair” – maybe it’s a song about a plastic surgery that went wrong?
“The Fifteen” features fantastic guitar action with greater texture and variety. This song’s style taps into shoegaze more and the different tempos and arrangements were a nice change. The words are quite abstract and imaginative here. “Olive” begins with a more “standard” rock beat – whatever that is these days – but it’s a great number overall. Somehow, the feeling within the song reminded me of Halloween – it has that creepy, cold and shadowy appeal to it, and I think it was a song about a girl named “Olive?” “Wraith” features more disturbing but creative lyrics about a man crucifying a female with “rusty railroad spikes” – befitting of the song’s title I suppose, considering the definition of wraith is a ghostlike image of someone shortly before or after they die. Musically, there is an awesome mix of distortion and lighter guitar action with a pretty cool solo – very dynamic! I’d say this one even crosses a line into heavy metal territory.
The last tune is “Advertising Sugar” a unique title to be sure, which the song’s more upbeat but equally heavy rock style may reflect the sweetness to its name. All I got from the lyrics were perhaps a failed attempt at being a “lauded author” and the awareness of another passing year with trees “losing their leaves.” But I think there is hope in the words here too – “I’m headed back there” which I think Vogel refers to as moving back to his home state Maryland. A fitting song to end the album in my opinion – I liked the outro parts on Vogel’s guitar, too. If you like heavy, distorted guitar, full and rich – and, loud – you’ll get plenty of it with Rather Vapid. Along with styles of alt and indie rock, shoe gaze and just a little dark goth influence here and there, Rather Vapid showcases full-blown fury, beginning to end.
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