Time Travel Made Easy

Spiraling

Dancing Pawn Music, 2008

http://www.spiraling.net

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/16/2008

I’ve always had a soft spot for concept albums.  Maybe it’s the storyteller -- or former drama student -- in me, but I've always thought there was something endearingly audacious about trying to capture an audience with an extended narrative consisting entirely of, well, pop songs.

Whatever it is, it definitely helps me to appreciate the new disc from New Jersey indie-rockers Spiraling, who fearlessly cross-pollinated Alan Parsons, H.G. Wells, Groundhog Day and the Cars to come up with Time Travel Made Easy.  Over the course of 13 tracks broken into two roughly equal parts, TTME tells the story -- hope I’ve got this about right -- of a hopelessly hung up science geek who tries to impress his crush by inventing a time machine, gets rejected anyway, and then travels back in time repeatedly trying to make their relationship come out the way he thinks it should.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Time Travel Made Easy is the brainchild of Spiraling lead vocalist/keyboardist Tom Brislin, who also writes all the songs and produces.  Multitalented as he is, Brislin proves himself to be first and foremost a music fan, melding the manic melodic genius of Ben Folds with the tortured geek romance of Fountains Of Wayne while channeling classic rock acts ranging from Queen -- whose theatrical flair and total commitment to a song he clearly idolizes -- to expansive proggers like Parsons and ELP.  Making these leaps of musical imagination possible are bandmates Marty O’Kane (guitar), Paul Wells (drums) and Bob Hart (bass), whose work is punchy, versatile and perfectly in sync with Brislin’s full-spectrum vision.

One of the strongest aspects of the album, though, is that these songs stand on their own quite well, outside of the threads of the larger story, especially numbers like “The Future,” which rings with thrashy Coldplay-meets-Green Day tunefulness, and “Victory Kiss,” which comes off like a makeout session between the Cars and Duran Duran, perhaps with Thomas Dolby on synths. 

Other highlights include the throbbing build and Brian Wilson-ish layered vocal arrangement of “All Kinds Of Love,” O’Kane’s stellar guitar work in the middle section of “Enemy,” the brilliantly over-the-top arrangement of “Choices,” the airy Brit-rock stylings of “Are You Here” and the ADHD symphonic rock of “Borrowed Time.”  Props are of course also due for the fact that “The Concept Of The Quantum-Mechanical Bodymind Has Sparked A Great Idea” features a chorus that goes: “I do what I want / Do what I want / Do what I want / Even if your fancy textbook says that I can’t.”  Snark on, gentlemen…

The obvious business plan for a New York-area indie group like Spiraling would be to make an album full of singles and try to get on the radio.  And while “Victory Kiss” and a couple of others here surely deserve airplay, Time Travel Made Easy is a fairly aggressively uncommercial album, full of smart, challenging music and ideas that force the listener to adjust and think and appreciate the larger vision of the artist.  In other words, it’s pretty kickass.

Rating: A-

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© 2008 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Dancing Pawn Music, and is used for informational purposes only.