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2003-05-15 - Big Fear Review - openingbands.com
Review #1 - Eric Wilson

Common Rotation gets their name from their habit of getting new members fairly often, hence the rotation. Steady members Eric Kufs and Adam Busch (who appears as a recurring character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) have released their second full-length, The Big Fear, which starts of with the track, "Indie Rockin'." Apparently, this is an attempt to have crossover potential, because it sounds nothing like the rest of the album. It is very, very poppy sounding and serves as a bad introduction to the sound of Common Rotation.

However, under the track's ultra-poppy sound lies a message that relates the attitude of the band, "I'm bringing all my cards to your table / Just don't stick me with a label." They experiment with the sounds of several different genres (pop, rock, folk, country, reggae). Using all of these "cards," they produce an album that is worthy of some recognition. Although their website defines them as pop folk, between the banjo and the vocals ("Deputy dog dog a ding dang depadepa"), I can't help but get the urge to stick them with a label with a "–country" modifier.

Getting past "Indie Rockin'," the first thing you notice is that Common Rotation has two singers equally sharing vocal responsibilities. One voice is very poppy while the other one is very, very country sounding. Together they make a harmony of voices that sets Common Rotation apart from other alt-country-folk-rock-pop groups. The coupled strength of the two opposing voices is best implemented on "Don't Let's Start," which is easily my favorite track.

Another "card" they bring to the table is the variety of instruments used. Strings, a banjo, a piano/organ, and an electric guitar are all used on various tracks, in addition to the basic acoustic guitar and drums. The ska/reggae "card" is played on "Sit Down," which has both the up-stroke of the guitar and cheesy organ. Emphasis on the offbeat is also used on "Fortunate." This ska/reggae influence gives some nice variety to the album.

My second favorite track is "Offstage Lines." Again, the juxtaposition of voices makes the track much more interesting. Another fact that distances Common Rotation from the country sound is their lyrics, which are much more meaningful than the stereotypical "My dang truck broke down / and my wife left town / but my boots are still brown" In "Offstage Lines," we find lyrics that allude to Adam Busch's acting career, "Now I've searched the needle/And I bide my time / And I've waited patiently for offstage lines," but can obviously carried over to be a metaphor for life.

The stripped down "Princess of Venice" shows that Common Rotation can make a moving song with only a single voice and acoustic guitar. Most of the other tracks are blanketed with a heavily produced, mainstream-sounding fill of background sounds (think Dave Matthews Band or Counting Crows). Common Rotation does a good job of making an album that could be boring sound refreshing with the duet of vocals, banjo, piano, and ska/reggae influence. That said, Common Rotation may not be my thing, but they have followings on both east and west coasts, so you may want to see what all the fuss is about.

Review #2 - Chris Earnhart

If you have been craving some good pop-rock/folk with just a tiny dash of country, then you have come to the right album. Acoustic guitar drives the music complimented by folk-like vocals on most songs.

A few songs break this general flow of the album. "Indie Rockin'" has a very indie rock sound (as might be expected) in which the song tells you not to label the band, which seems to be what this song is trying to prevent in the first place. It provides very little indication of what the rest of the album will sound like, but it doesn't take away from the album, so an extra song is always a plus. "Sit Down" is also a little different with a sound that is more easily defined as pop-rock than the rest of the album. Again, this song serves to break up any monotony that the album might have, and it doesn't clash. The song does have some very good harmonies which can be seen in the rest of the album.

As a matter of fact, the harmonies are perhaps one of the strongest parts of the album. I feel that many bands don't succesfully pull off harmonies, or they only use them to make certain parts louder, but Common Rotation has a very good grip on this aspect of the music. In "Don't Let's Start," the lead vocals and back-up vocals work together not only to make certain parts louder, but to play off and against each other to provide a pleasing vocal effect.

I think that, with the exception of the two black sheep songs, this band can be described as a great coffee shop folk artist backed by a band. The band adds flavor to the acoustic guitar with electric guitar, bass, maracas (and a few other cool percussion instruments), violin, and drums. "Prime Time" is one of the best examples of this. With folk-sounding vocals and acoustic guitar mixed with a pop-rock band.

The only thing that I didn't like about the album is "Princess of Venice." It is just too close to country for me. I love folk, but am not a big fan of the twanginess so heavily present in country vocals and guitar. Other than that, even the presence of a clearly different song plays into the overall feeling of the album, and I applaud Common Rotation for a clear, professional, and, most importantly, enjoyable album.

If there are any folk fans than can stand pop-rock, or any pop-rock fans that can stand folk, then they should definitely check out this band. You can get their album The Big Fear or look them up at http://www.commonrotation.com/. Enjoy!


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