Ravi Shankar is arguably the most popular Hindu musician alive, and has worked with the Beatles, arguably the most popular rock group of all time. His daughter is Norah Jones, one of the biggest jazz artists to have come out of the industry in the last decade or so, and the pair of them are incredibly talented musicians. Why all this talk of Mr. Shankar in a CD Review that’s not even about him? Well, there’s two reasons. The first is that the promo-fluff I received on the Tea Party said that they sounded like a combination of ‘Ravi Shankar, Jeff Buckley, The Cure and Led Zeppelin’. That’s quite the statement to make, if you were to ask me, and it sets the bar rather high for a music release. The second reason is that talking about Ravi Shankar, his many accomplishments, his beautiful daughter, and the bands he has worked with, are all preferable to talking about the new Tea Party disc, Seven Circles.
The Tea Party have undergone a number of changes throughout the years. Going from bluesy-rockers to world fusion music experimentalists to tinkering around with industrial and electronica, they have quite the extensive resume. It would seem that with this resume, and credentials backing them up, that these lads from Southern Ontario are looking to finally break into that ever elusive American market, if rumours of a collaboration with Scott Stapp are to be believed. Indeed, the fact that the band decided to invite Bob Rock into the studio seems to indicate that they’re attempting to play it safe. Gone is the Tea Party that was known for experimenting with new sounds, instruments and compositions. In it’s place is a band that has offered an album that is very much pedestrian, with compositions that seem to be tailor made for radio, specifically American radio, a format which is very paranoid about what exactly it plays on it’s airwaves, thanks to a certain performer baring herself earlier in the year.
The opening track, ‘Writing’s On The Wall’, sounds very much like a Stone Temple Pilots b-side, with vocalist Jeff Martin attempting to emulate Scott Weiland’s distinct vocal stylings. The limp sounding guitars, faux bridge and having the chorus repeated about 20 times just scream ‘Hi, we’re safe and friendly and will be a perfect addition to your radio station.’ For a band that has regularly done 6-8 minute long songs, this 2 and a half minute track barely registers for me, and sadly sets the tone for most of the record. Second tune ‘Stargazer’ is actually a rather nicely put together tune, showing that the Tea Party could put together great sounding ‘mainstream’ tunes without sounding like utter shite, however on ‘One Step Closer Away’, we’re treated to brillant lyrical stylings such as ‘I know your name, I heard you call / A distant voice behind the wall’, again far removed from the evocative lyrics that the band was known for.
The track that features vocals from Holly McNarland, ‘Wishing You Could Stay’, is not that bad vocally, however the lyrical content and composition falls rather flat. There’s only so many times you can rhyme the word ‘it’ with ‘it’, or the word ‘more’ with ‘more’. Compared to other, far more tender and put together Tea Party tracks, ‘Wishing You Could Stay’ comes across sounding cheap and contrite, as though the band is attempting to worm their way into the Seether/Amy demographic of angsty, navel gazing suburbanites. The only good thing about this, really, is that they do it so much more better than those two pissants.
The stand out track, and the only real track that harkens back to the Tea Party’s defining ‘sound’ would be ‘Luxuria’, as the Middle Eastern-meets-heavy-rock sound is in effect here and is actually a pretty good track. The same cannot be said for the other three Bob Rock tunes, which are vanilla to the extreme, sounding like everything else that is out on the radio these days. Not a good thing for a band that used to be noted for the fact on how different they sounded in comparison to what else was out there.
1) Writing’s On The Wall
3) One Step Closer Away
7) Coming Back Again
8) The Watcher
9) Empty Glass
10) Wishing You Would Stay
11) Seven Circles
Official band site: www.teaparty.com