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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mesh STL: Lowercase

In the summer of 2001, I had come home from college for the break and discovered that my younger brother had bought a cd titled Lowercase from a band called Mesh STL. When I'd taken on the task of painting a room in my dad's house, my brother decided that I should listen to them. He put their cd into the player, and I listened while I painted. I thought they were pretty cool at the time, however, years later I'm wondering, "What were we thinking?" Don't make the mistake of figuring I think that Mesh STL is a bad band, or that the album is terrible. It's far from terrible. I'd even venture to say it's not bad, but do not misunderstand that it's not a good one either. They're one of those bands that I wonder if I'd prefer their live music to their recordings. I'd be curious to find out, but it's their debut, and to my knowledge, their only album, that brings me to this retro review.

Lowercase begins with a song titled, "I Don't Know". It's comprised of some heavy guitar riffs intermingled with similar vocals. At times, the vocals resemble those of Rob Thomas and at other times, they resemble Puddle of Mudd's, Wes Scantlin, though I'd lean more to the Rob Thomas/Matchbox 20 resemblance. During this song, it is likely that you will not be drawn in. The lyrics are not memorable, the vocals/lyrics are not impressively creative, and the instrumentation is quite simple. Overall, you'd likely hear a better track from either of the forementioned artists. "Gray" is slightly better than its predecessor in a few areas. The musical melodies are more appealing and the chorus of this song is also a bit easier to sing along to. The vocals get a little more gruff and fascinating and there are a few interesting chord choices made. The chorus simply sings, "Sometimes everyone sees gray, and I don't need to change". Other than the mentioned improvements of this song, it's nearly on the same level as "I Don't Know". One of the best songs on the album, and I use the term "best" lightly, is titled, "Maybe Tomorrow". It's slightly more intriguing with it's different, lighter intro and the vocals collaborate with the percussion to draw you a little further into the song than you might expect to go, having heard the first couple of songs. The intro remains in the background throughout most of the song, used as a theme. The bridge pulls you right into the chorus with "All you ever wanted, my love. All you ever needed, my love. All the time that's wasted..." It really prepares you for the abrupt rhythms presented in the chorus. This song also makes several unique rhythmical changes, particularly in the instrumental break after the second chorus. "Maybe Tomorrow" is definitely one of the better experiences you'll find yourself having with Mesh STL.

Moving right along, you come to a happy little track known as, "Little Star" in which the chorus asks, "Little Star won't you shine your light down on me? Pick me up when I lose the will to breathe". It really is a pleasant sounding track in which the percussion remains heavy, but the guitars and vocals have managed to devise melodies that move me into feelings of optimism, however mild they may be. Not their best, but far from their worst on Lowercase. "Contagious" is the fifth track which sounds hopeful for about 16 seconds as you hear a introductory guitar riff that's slightly reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine. However, after those few seconds are up, you're immediately brought back to the realization that you will not be so lucky. Mesh STL doesn't deliver a bad song with "Contagious", but it's as if they don't go the extra mile to give you a winner. For example, after the initial riff (which does repeat itself several times), they have a "random note fest" and completely digress, all the while mixing in some vocal distortion. After that, the vocals and instruments come together for a unified sound, that once again sounds hopefully good, yet they lose me with the melody of the chorus, in which "Contagious" gives up a bit of the harshness that makes it initially appealing. Not a winner either. The next on the list, "Sunday Comes Around" is probably my favorite on the album. Not only does it begin with a good soft guitar melody, it quickly delves off into a bit of roughness, that is appropriately toyed with throughout the entire track. It's quite singable and you'll likely want to do that with this track. The bridge in this song is so fun an almost "grunge-esque" before you're brought back to the familiarity of the song. The thing I don't like most about this album (the musical choices made that usually ruin the track) are the things which I love most about this song. I'm never expecting the elements that they throw at me, but I'm loving the changes made in this one. "Rather Be Alone" is hardly worth mentioning in that it sounds like every other song you've ever heard. As many times as you can listen to this album, you'll likely forget this track every time. I know I have. Everything in "Rather Be Alone" from rhythms to vocal melodies to lyrics to overall feel are quite cookie cutter. It's almost as if someone said, "Here, have the recipe for a standard rock song. If you follow this recipe, you'll surely succeed in being standard." It's very forgettable.

"Believe Me" is another one of my favorite tracks on this album and the reasons are definite to me; sounds of two other successful bands are present in this song. During the intro/verses, you can almost bet that you're listening to the track, "Blurry" from Puddle of Mudd (a musical selection I'm sad to admit that I don't hate). They didn't copy anything because POM's album Clean wasn't released for another year,
but listen to both and you'll surely notice the similarities. Then, as you move into the chorus, it's like, "OMG, Finger Eleven stopped by for a visit". Funny enough, the chorus is not very long in length, so you won't be graced with their traces for a large amount of time. The resemblances to both bands are super prevalent in this song. That's my reasoning behind my liking. "Leave" and "No End" are similar to "Rather Be Alone" in that they're pretty standard. In fact, I often mistakenly confuse them all. While you could maybe listen and hear distinctly different songs, they're so alike to me that I'd almost repeat myself about the other track. Having said that, here are the key elements of these songs: they sound like another song on this album, they sound like every other mediocre rock song ever, and you'll probably either forget them or hit your forward button on your iPod/cd player at their intros.

I'm a firm believer in going out strong on your album, and although you're going to be shocked (oh yes, thick sarcasm), "Falling Into Me" fails to meet my high expectations. This song is best described as being one of their worst on the album, if not taking the cheese altogether. It begins as though it might be a cool track, but what kills this song is a collaboration of mediocre instrumentation and terrible vocal melodies and what sounds to me like forced vocal rhythms. Since the vocalist is consistent in rhythms, you know it's not a mistake but it still sounds off to my ear. It's likely just the added notes in the melody that give it that feel, but whatever the case, it's not good. I've heard better musicianship, writing, and performances from teenagers. Crap, I like anything by Creed better than "Falling Into Me", which should let you know how little I think of it.

Again, Lowercase isn't a bad album, but it's terribly mediocre. It's average to the absolute utmost and that is Mesh STL's biggest problem here. They sound like decent musicians, and as I said before, I may even like the songs better performed live, but as far as Lowercase goes, it was probably difficult to develop a huge fan base with this album. Oh well, better luck next time.

Key Tracks:
1. "Maybe Tomorrow"
2. "Little Star"
3. "Sunday Comes Around"
4. "Believe Me"

5 out of 10 stars

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