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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Vertical Horizon: "Everything You Want"

Vertical Horizon’s 1999 album release of Everything You Want is just that. It is the album that takes you back to your adolescent romances and the turmoil surrounding those awkward times. It is the album that makes you feel like you might want to take a long drive to anywhere on a sunny day, just to listen to it. It is the album that, despite its emotionally heavy lyrics, is light and refreshing and leads to you to believe their may have been a light at the end of the “all grunge” tunnel. Everything You Want starts off with some solid songs, has some “okay” songs in the middle, and saves the absolute best song, in more ways than one, for last. Although the lyrics on Everything You Want are simple and non-complex, they are written in such a way that you get the gist of the album as a whole, without overstepping your boundary of determining what the writers were trying to capture. If I had to sum up the theme of this album with a short phrase, I would choose “unrequited love”. Some could argue with me and say that there is “so much more” to this album than that, but honestly, it is a theme that ultimately trumps other possibilities.

Radio hit, "We Are" opens up with, what upon your first time hearing it sounds like it could be Phil Collins (though thankfully not), the words “We Are, We Are”. Sound goofy? Well, maybe a little odd, but it got me wondering, “we are…we are…we are what?!?!?!?” Not to completely negate everything mentioned about the prevalent theme of this album, but "We Are" is the oddball song that does not stand out as being a completely obvious love theme. Matt Scannell, lead vocalist, begins, “Take a listen through the window, take a lover on the radio, ask her if she’s got an answer, do you know?” and just when you believe you are beginning to grasp the concept of the song, Scannell hits you with “Time enough to get a good one, though they never seem to get done, I am standing for a reason, do you know?”. A little ambiguous, true, but definitely enough to get you wondering what’s in store for the rest of the song, and quite possibly even the album. As he gets to the chorus, and you have realized that your “best case scenario” dream has come true and he is nothing like Phil Collins, you hear the rest of the statement… “I don’t know how and I don’t know where, we are, we are.” The rest of the song continues with this word soup that does not amount to much lyrically, but at the end was a musically entertaining and catchy song.

The next three tracks, "You’re a God," "Everything You Want," and "Best I Ever Had" were also all hits eventually released on radio. They are three of the better songs on the album in that the listener starts to feel a connection with the emotion that Vertical Horizon is portraying both through music and lyrics. While "You’re a God" is upbeat and pop song-ish, you still get the sense of either an inner struggle dealing with inferiority or just flat out sarcasm. Into the chorus, Scannell sings, “You’re a god and I am not, and I just thought that you would know. You’re a god and I am not, and I just thought I’d let you go”. While this song is one of their better ones, it still leaves a little to be desired. Enter, "Everything You Want". This song delivers a big fat helping of 90’s nostalgia and is easily relatable to anyone who has carried a torch for another. While musically smooth and yet percussive at the same time, "Everything You Want" is a heart heavy track following someone who is described to be the flawless significant other but ultimately, is unwanted. The lyrics in this track are turmoil inspired and despite the simplicity, enjoyable. However, by far the best of the three is "Best I Ever Had", a song that is so utterly heartfelt, it has the power to bring you to tears (if you enjoy the Gary Allen cover, you would probably be crying for a different reason…ear poison). "Best I Ever Had" deals with a failed relationship and the longing for it back again. As with the other tracks, the straightforward lyrics do not dumb it down, but make it super relatable (i.e. “Send it in a letter, make yourself feel better” draw a picture of an immature breakup). My favorite part of this song is the bridge, which Scannell sings with such passion: “And it may take some time to patch me up inside, but I can’t take it so I run away and hide; and I may find in time that you were always right, you’re always right”. This track itself makes the whole album worth listening to, yet it’s still not the crowned jewel.

The next six tracks are hit and miss. I prefer "Finding Me," "Send It Up," and "All of You" to be of better substance than the other three not mentioned. The tracks I listed are more upbeat and while sticking with the theme, they take you on less of an emotional roller coaster than the first chunk of the album, partially due again to the pop rock feel of the music.

Now we arrive at the BIG SHEBANG…"Shackled." This song comes as both a pleasant surprise and a hefty treat to me. After listening to Matt Scannell lay down lead vocals on the entire album prior to now, you naturally expect him to lay down the last track as well, but ta da – you get the brilliance of Keith Kane, back up vocalist singing lead. Not only is his voice gravelly as opposed to Scannell’s smoothness, but the lyrics in this song are dramatically different from those prior. They are more complex, a bit dark, and much less expected. Also, this song takes an attitude of self-liberation, which is worlds different than the “woe is me” feel the rest of the album portrays. We hear about how beat down he has been, but also how he rises. The chorus reads, “’Cause my shackles, you won’t be. And my rapture, you won’t believe. And deep inside you will bleed for me”. As if that were not a big gut punch to the song’s subject, in the last chorus, Kane gives us, “And my laughter, you won’t hear the faster I disappear, and time will burn your eyes to tears”. Yeah, bring it! This song is without a doubt my favorite track on this album for so many reasons. Vertical Horizon definitely saved the best for last.

I am tremendously pleased with this album as recommends Third Eye Blind, Nine Days, and Tonic as similar listens, and I find Vertical Horizon to be much less obnoxious than their time period counterparts. If you have never listened to this album or are thinking about resurrecting it from way at the bottom of your collection, do it.

Recommended for fans of “turn of the century” pop rock music, or for those who are wanting to self medicate their failed relationship…or both.

Key Tracks:
1. "We Are"
2. "You're A God"
3. "Everything You Want"
4. "Finding Me"
5. "Shackles"

7 out of 10 Stars


Anonymous said...

This may be the greatest review I have ever read on this sight. I can't wait to see what else this new writer Erin has in store for us.

Cale said...

Sure it is, Jason. Sure it is...

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