Storms by Walk Your Bike is an ambitious concept album that tells a story inspired by Edgar Allen Poe complete with narration, different characters represented vocally and instrumental soundscapes that link sections together. There are parts of the album that work really well and others that slow the momentum of the album.
Musically, the album is generally very strong. The album opens with “A Scene” which has a minimalist ostinato synth pattern with various keyboards playing over it reminiscent of Jon Brion. The song transitions to live distorted guitars before dropping down for film noir-esque piano and strings. “The Silver Lyre” has some nice vocals singing alone and with some powerful harmonies over slide guitars and cellos. There is a Neko Case vibe going on in the pseudo-‘50s/’60s-Americana style of the song and also in the vocal phrasing. “Liquid” is a hard rocker with a strong full rock vocal. There’s some excited drumming with double kick drum, harmonized guitar lines and an interesting ska-breakdown towards the middle. Although not all of the hits line up together in the performance, there is certainly a lot of energy in this song and it’s the first time the album demands your attention.
“Easy Breathing” is a smart mellow electronica song a la Sneaker Pimps with backwards cymbals, burbling tones, synthesized pianos and a powerful vocal. “Inspiration” moves from delicate acoustic guitar arpeggios supporting harmonized vocals to gritty electric guitars and rim clicks. There are some pretty moments, but when the voice moves to a solo voice there is a particularly beautiful quality that stands out from the harmonized sections. “Where Are We Going” is a bluesy minor number with some busy but florid harmony vocals throughout.
Some of the weaker moments of the album include “Tales Of Aerth” which begins with west coast surf guitar before being joined by a spoken word verse that is occasionally doubled. Unfortunately in the chorus when the voice turns to singing, there are lots of words that are crammed into a small amount of space and the scansion feels awkward. It is followed by an excellent guitar solo, but closes with an abrupt shift to lounge jazz with Branford Marsalis-like soprano sax. It sounds good but it’s hard to see how it’s connected to what’s happened previously. “Nikola Tesla” has some squeaky acoustic guitar over some hurried bongos. The harmony vocal has some spirit to it, but the lead vocal has a disinterested blasé feel that doesn’t feel out of the genre of lo-fi indie folk, but loses some of the momentum that the album has built up so far. “Tesla’s Dream” starts with psychedelic guitar lines over a roadhouse blues band warming up before exploding into trippy acid rock. It dips into an echoed acoustic section before strings join in over sixteenth note hits on the hi-hat, which combined with the grungy guitar overpower the narration.
“Mutiny” begins with a reggae guitar groove over some atonal cello lines. After the narration there are some faint vocals, which are mixed under the drums and cello and hard to pick out. There are some more spoken word bits that appear before more voices find their way to the top of the mix. The song descends into some messy bits with out of tune guitar and flailing drum hits. The transitions are abrupt and make it hard to justify the eight-minute length of the song. “Into The Mist” is a swirling 6/8 soundscape with waves, wind, piano and a stringed instrument that walks the edge of intonation and takes away the focus from some of the other elements. “Old Child Blues” is an electric blues out of the Jefferson Airplane playbook, but the vocal is a bit thin and clean to compete with the rest of the instruments and gets consumed in the dynamics occasionally losing some of the intended edge.
“The Before, The During, The After” starts with some loud in-your-face guitar playing some flamenco like lines soaked in distortion while the rest of the band comes in and thrashes behind it. It’s a great instrumental though the mix puts the guitar so far in front of the rest of the instruments (and much louder than anything previously heard on the album) that it’s hard to appreciate the intricacies of the band. “A New View Of The Sky” falls into similar strengths and weaknesses; excellent melodic parts that interweave over each other but the mix is a bit overt. “Collision” on the other hand manages to achieve the same great sense of instrumental performance but with a tighter mix that connects the whole band together.
Overall, it would be nice to hear some editing in the album, perhaps to break it down into shorter releases. It’s hard to follow the story and the narrator doesn’t command enough energy to keep interest in what’s going on. Still, instrumentally the album is very strong and there are some great performances that lend themselves well to soundtracks and soundscapes.
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