Posted on January 27th, 2009 (12:39 pm) by Jacob Pet

Do you remember that awkward music stage you went through in middle school? The one where you thought you were punk, and no one could understand how you were feeling inside? Good thing we made it though the 8th grade and discovered the inner music snob inside all of us.

For some people, it takes a bit longer to branch out; take former front man of The Starting Line, Kenneth Vasoli. After a nine-year run with The Starting Line, churning out Billboard hits about young love, Mr. Vasoli found himself too limited by the parameters his band had set out. As a result, person L (get it?) was formed in the winter of 2006 to showcase Vasoli’s new musical taste.

Citing the likes of James Brown, Broken Social Scene, Bob Dylan, and Animal Collective as strong influences in the groups first release, Initial, one might expect a tentative first step away from the manufactured, commercialized sound familiar to Vasoli’s earlier work, but even a tentative step would be an overstatement. At the very least, one might expect some exploration of experimental composure after invoking the name of Animal Collective, but alas, this is not the case. Instead, person L feels a lot like, well, The Starting Line.

Initial is a bit schizophrenic in its compilation, evidenced by the fact that yours truly has never even considered track arrangement on a first sampling of a new record. Listening through the first time is reminiscent of a hastily compiled mix tape, with each song feeling forced into each other like mismatched puzzle pieces. Initial features eight tracks which bounce between pseudo-punk pop and pop ballads that are at least a little more musically creative.

One observation that can be made regarding all tracks are their uncomfortable notion of formula, as if each track was run though a song machine and the dial was either set to ‘slow song’ or ‘fast song.’ This feeling of a ‘mad-lib’ song structure is perhaps the greatest divider between person L and the artists that they call on as influences. When you first sit down with a track by Broken Social Scene or Bob Dylan, you don’t know where you will be taken. Each song evolves as if it is alive, but this magic is lost on person L. As each track begins, even the middle school listener knows the course the song will take musically and lyrically.

Initial opens with the track “Wooden Soldiers,” showcasing the new, lighter side of Mr. Vasoli. Featuring subtle guitars with the odd synthesizer and glockenspiel, person L lays down a more progressive sonic image than that of The Starting Line, but not one that would be more rewarding or revealing on a second listen. Lyrically, “Wooden Solders” sets the tone for the following tracks with a sense of incompletion. In “Wooden Solders” we are given a chorus to listen to twice with a one-word variation that isn’t enough to make for any real difference.

While Initial seems to continue in this fashion, with tracks “Holy Hell,” “Born in the Rainy Days of May,” and “We’re gonna Run Out of Road” having a straight-to-guitarhero flavor about them, the album does have one saving grace. Only making an appearance on the non-pseudo-punk tracks is a bit of contemporary innovation from percussion in the vain of The Dodos and Vampire Weekend. Taking an authoritative role in the opening track, and coming into full bloom on the track “Canyonlands” is the use of drums as the driving instrumental force behind the songs. In “Canyonlands,” the jazz accented drums stand beside the vocals with guitars, again, only providing light soundscape. This arrangement showcases the vocals so well that it is a shame “Canyonlands” suffers from the same lyrical vices that plague the rest of the album. That said, this one lonely track sitting mid-way through an underwhelming album does show a lot of potential, and casts a ray of hope on a future release.

Person L’s first offering is a far cry from (as its myspace page claims) a CD that “not only pushes (the) envelope – but licks and seals it”, but maybe person L’s story can give you some hope as a music listener. One teen punker’s discovery of Bob Dylan may not signal a musical revaluation, but it’s at least a step in the right direction.

Track List

1. Wooden Soldiers (4:38)
2. Holy Hell (2:10)
3. Help Yourself (4:09)
4. Canyonlands (5:48)
5. Born In the Rainy Days of May (4:20)
6. We're Gonna Run Out of Road (4:17)
7. Sunshine (5:21)
8. Storms (4:36)

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

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