Polyvinyl Records, 2013
Review by Kent Manthie
Just as Owen (Mike Kinsella’s solo work) has put out a new album, L’Ami du Peuple, he also has a new CD out with a new side project: Their/They’re/There is a new project that includes Evan Weiss (Into It. Over It.) on bass and vocals, Mike Kinsella (Cap’n Jazz, Joan of Arc, Owls, American Football, Friend/Enemy, Owen and others) on drums and Matthew Frank (Loose Lips Sink Ships) on guitar.
Their/They’re/There’s eponymous debut is a six-song EP that is full of energy. The three disparate members pull together to put an Emo-ish style: the opening cut, “Their/They’re/Therapy” starts out the EP like a teenage angst anthem. “Concession Speech Writer” threatens to emulsify this vibe, until you realize that there is some really great stuff going on here: this trio makes a big, complex sound that is encircled by the awesome swirling and never ending guitar plucking, picking and noodling of Matthew Frank. Singer/bassist Evan Weiss, from the band Into It Over It, has this powerful, from-the-gut vocal range; solidly built, perfect-pitched vocals that don’t get drowned out by the razor-sharp, energetic, frenetic guitar of Frank or the hammering percussion Kinsella lays down. Mike’s a really great drummer. He also plays guitar quite well himself. That’s one reason his Owen material is so powerful – his one-man-band effort is so seamless, he can really do some slick picking and grooving and generate bitchin’ beats. Weiss’s bass playing is also quite smooth – he can either be subtle and a good anchor or do some Jack Bruce-like jamming, which makes for a great rhythm section – Evan and Mike; they complement each other nicely.
So it was here that I had to come back after a couple extra listens to this EP and after one particular listening, I was just blown away. I thought to myself – WHAT? This album rocks. If this stuff is “emo” than most bands that are in that category are the problem, not the genre. The drumming is just awesome. Mike Kinsella is one hell of a drummer. For instance, on the final cut, “End And End”, he plays both with the band and by himself, as if he’s just going off on a bombastic, jazz-influenced solo. It’s not dissonant or anything, but it really lends a bite to the whole atmosphere.
It did take me a couple go-rounds to get used to Evan Weiss’s vocal style, but that’s because, when it comes to all things Kinsella – whether it’s Mike or Tim – I’m so used to hearing a certain sound whereas Evan doesn’t sound like them (duh). He has a somewhat deeper, close to baritone voice that has a dynamic range to it and can belt out a real welter of a vocal. The whole trio really plays well together and I just can’t wait to hear their next release.
One song on Their/They’re/There that really shines is the penultimate “572 Cuthbert Blvd”, a softer, glittering harmonizing tune that is, of all the other tunes on here, closer to what I love about Owen’s music. Besides the almost classical sounding guitar on here is Evan’s softer side, when he turns his voice down a couple notches and makes it a great tune by the emotions that ooze through.
The album’s closer, “End And End” is also similar to “572 Cuthbert Blvd” in that Evan’s singing isn’t as plaintive as the first four. If he had kept the singing to more hushed tones, it would’ve given the instruments more room to shine and might’ve turned out differently. The really cool thing about “End And End” is the way it suddenly just STOPS right at the 4:00 mark. There’s no finale, no notice at all, musically, that the song’s over, it’s as if someone just turned off the recording gear, pulled the plug, if you will, and “poof” it’s done.
To find out how grand they really are, I’m waiting, hoping that they’ll take time off from their respective other outfits to do at least a mini-tour (as long as they come to San Diego!) so I can check ’em out live (and get some good photos too!)
One cannot deny that the trio really kick ass. Is it just me or do bands such as Their/They’re/There come across as being “Emo”?? If you were to ask me if I was into “Emo”, I’d naturally say “no”. And I don’t know if Their/They’re/There is “Emo” or not, I guess it is sometimes a personal judgment call in some cases. There are bands that don’t hold back and aren’t afraid to show their vulnerable, nerdy side and one of these bands is Braid, who, I think, is from Chicago.
I went to go see what I thought would be an Owen show a couple years ago, except that I was under the impression that Owen was playing 2nd and Braid was opening up, but, having to take a LOOOONG bus ride there and not getting to the Irenic in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego until after 9, I showed up and as soon as I walked in I found out that Owen played first and I got inside just in time to hear him do his very last song for the evening, “Too Many Moons”, from Ghost Town. At least I got a few good pictures of him as well as a freebie T-shirt. I stuck around for awhile and caught some of Braid’s show, but, after a half hour or so, I just couldn’t take it anymore and I left and went home. Besides, I was already so disappointed that I’d missed seeing Owen, which is the reason I had gone there in the 1st place.
But I’d stick around for a Their/They’re/There show. Whether Mike was going to play a separate Owen show or not!
As far as Their/They’re/There goes, this album just gets better with each additional play. It has the opposite of a lot of modern rock today – it doesn’t get old fast, it’s like a great, complex cult film: the more you see it, the more you get out of it. -KM