MGF Reviews 1997 – …A Better View of the Rising Moon

1997 – …A Better View of the Rising Moon
Victory Records (4/17/07)
Emo / Rock / Pop

Have you ever gone to a concert, perhaps at a small club, were you know the main act but remain completely unaware of the opening band (usually named Kevin Killer and His Implements of Destruction or Syphilis Diller)? You get your beer and not even pay attention to Kevin Killer, catching up with your friends, gabbing about the album by whoever you are really there to see, only to be suddenly sucked deep into the opening band’s song. Then, as their half hour quickly comes to an end, you are their new number one fan. You buy their album after their set, chat with the band, go back to your friends and tell them what cool guys Syphilis Diller are. Then you get home and burn a billion copies of their album, creating your own grassroots marketing campaign for the band, and give it to everyone you know. You play it at work and when people ask what it is you nonchalantly mutter, “Oh, it’s Kevin Killer and His Implements of Destruction. You like it?” Long story short, when I get CD’s in the mail for review I cringe when I haven’t heard of the band, quite like the opening act for a talented band. Literally. I cringe. 1997 is my Syphilis Diller… in a manner of speaking.

1997 is a passionate, creative Chicago quintet churning that emo milk into butter. Reinventing and constantly playing with the genre, yet in such an unassuming way that their motivation is sheer creativity not just an attempt to sound different. It also does not seem like a lucky accident. Very few albums in the same vein can claim the uses of a mandolin, banjo, harmonica and cello. With these instruments punctuating and detailing the songs, never overtaking them, shouting to the world, “Look at us, concertgoers of America. We used a mandolin!”

Drummer Nick Coleman is quoted as saying, “I Was sick of playing in bands that went nowhere—all the hard work wasn’t paying off…” I think it is in that frustration that the talent of this band was born. A definitive, unique sound grew out of hard work and the drive to do something that they loved. 1997 took a large risk in this album because many emo-heads will bash the album for being outside their parameters and everyone else might write it off quickly as emo. As one iTunes comment stated, “God I hate this type of music!!! I guess you can say it’s catchy…”

With influences like The Promise Ring, Bob Dylan, Bright Eyes and Mineral, 1997 has an appealing tapestry of stylish lyrics, lively melodies, a bite of angst and a sprinkle of optimism. Even the album title, Since My House Burned Down I Now Own a Better View of the Rising Moon, sounds like something Modest Mouse would come up with. Unlike Fall Out Boy (apparently the god at which all emo-ish bands must bow), 1997 doesn’t fall prey to the typical “don’t call us emo” formula… emo mixed with bubblegum pop. They wander confidently into indie rock and inventive acoustic rock and roll. This band has enough talent and personality to tread water among the top rock acts out there today.

Singers Kevin Thomas and Alida Marroni are a fantastic pairing. They seem to feed off one another’s energy, never afraid to take the back seat and allow the other to lead. The rest of the band, Alan Goffinski, Nick Coleman and Caleb Pepp play with such fervor and unique playfulness that you don’t find in bands this young. The emo underplaying does affect the album like a talented violinist hitting the wrong note; you rear back and think, “Why did they do that? They’re better than that.”

In doing research for preparation for this review I, as I usually do when I run out of words, went to YouTube in search of any videos and live performances 1997 might have. There is the tragic flaw of this band. Typing 1997 in a YouTube search is like typing “porn” into a Yahoo! search and hoping to find a specific picture. I did however find their video for “Hey Darlin'”, which, in my opinion, is their least accessible song for a mass audience, but what do I know. I have to be honest here; if I saw these kids on stage setting up for a gig would probably scoff. Sure, call me callous and stereotyping but with the skunk-spot hair and lackadaisical dress, their musical sound makes one think their mature babysitter wrote it. That being said, if this band still has growing up to do then I can’t wait to see what they come out with next.


P.S. I made it a point to look up 1997 in a few more locations… Okay, I looked at their MySpace page and their new flyer has an updated photograph that shows the band a bit more mature—oh what sideburns and a single hair color can do for a person. I apologize for judging you by your looks but it won’t be the last time. The dude in front wearing American flag boxers (I can only assume he is the front man Kevin Thomas) looks like the older Pete from The Adventures of Pete and Pete. Remember that show?

Also, I have been fighting a cold and have kept myself highly medicated. Adjectives right now are like floating specks of dust I can see but can’t seem to grasp a hold of. If this article seems unspecific and wandering (as opposed to my other articles, right?), then I apologize.