Benzos – Morning Stanzas

5 09 2008

This review first appeared on About.com.

Benzodiazepines. In the medical world they act as highly addictive mood stabilizers which enter the bloodstream far more quickly than most other antipsychotics. The New York-based electronic/rock band which adopted the drug’s nickname Benzos has quite the same effect. Forming a mere two years ago in 2003, they have already singed a deal with indie-label Stinky Records, gained a loyal East Coast fan-base, and released their first effort, Morning Stanzas.

Morning Stanzas

Morning Stanzas

The Benzos sound incorporates ethereal electronic programming, reverb-drenched vocals, and their signature half-time choruses filled with staccato chord stabs. As a result of several of the members DJing before joining the group, they instinctively incorporate electronic genres such as drum n’ bass, atmospheric jungle, and house into their music. The resulting sound is akin to Jeff Buckley filling in on lead vocals for OK Computer-era Radiohead.

One of the key aspects to the Benzos sound is their firm grasp of dynamics. Although the majority of the songs on Morning Stanzas just barely hit the four minute mark, the myriad of changes in song structure make them feel like epic journeys unto themselves. Tracks such as the driving opener, “All The King’s Men,” ranges from raging choruses, tripped-out guitar breakdowns, and four-on-the-floor dance sensibility. Benzos work their magic once again on “Mechanical Comrades.” With a chorus so nice you’ll play it twice, it is by far the peak of the album in terms of hooks. After the first listen, it is astonishing to find that the song is only a mere three minutes long.As well crafted as some of Morning Stanzas’ songs are, they seem to be a bit hit-or-miss. With their lack of direction, songs such as “It’s Amiable” and “You’re Forever An Hourglass” are a chore to take in. Further detracting from their sound is vocalist Christian Celaya’s tendency to imitate the vocal stylings of Thom Yorke, The Doves’ Jimi Goodwin, and the late Jeff Buckley.
Despite the band’s occasional wanderings, Morning Stanzas is a solid offering from this up-and-coming group. If you enjoy the ambient sounds of Radiohead, but long for their now-forgotten days of rock-oriented music, I recommend a dosage of Benzos’ Morning Stanzas.
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