Scenic channels the ’90s college/alt rock music sound in the best way.
As much as we tend to eschew labels (particularly in music), there is nothing inherently wrong with them. They have a place and a function. The trouble arises when we attach too much significance to a label, when we limit the thing being described to too narrow a definition and when the meaning of a label or description is too ambiguous or ill-defined.
One may get the gist of a great piece of literature by reading the Cliff Notes (are those still a thing?) but one will surely miss what it is that makes the literature great. So labels (particularly in the context of music reviews) are like Cliff Notes. They are, at best, a starting point and anything but definitive.
Bearing these things in mind. it is with the greatest respect and admiration that having listened to Scenic’s newest EP, the as-of-yet unmastered, unreleased, Unnamed EP #2, I have boiled it down to a starting point, a label, Cliff Notes for the Chattanooga music scene. I declare this EP (which is sincerely unnamed at the moment) representative of the very best of ’90s college/alt rock. I don’t know if that is what they were shooting for, but it IS what I hear, and that is not meant as faint praise. On the contrary, it is my belief that the so-called alt/college genre reached a high water mark in the ’90s that hasn’t been seen since.
So, we have a label. Let’s delve a little deeper into precisely what that means. In the case of Scenic and the five tunes they sent me, it means that the vocals are highly melodic, replete with harmonies and counter-melodies and the lyrics themselves are intelligent and well crafted. Dave Jackson’s guitar is bright, punchy and refined. Often I praise a guitarist for being raw (an admirable trait in the appropriate setting), but this should never imply that the opposite (refined, polished guitar work) isn’t equally desirable and praiseworthy. Chris Wiegand does a hell of a job doubling up the guitar with Jackson. Marcus Alcantara’s drums are crisp, bright and kick-ass quick. Blake Porter’s keys fill in the spaces nicely with pretty lead lines and swollen chords and the bass…
Bass players of the world, I apologize. If you fail to do your job properly it wrecks a tune in no time, but when you are doing your job right, well, it’s hard to know what to say. In the case of Scenic, the bass is perfect for the task at hand, being neither too sparse nor needlessly complicated. If the bass is the glue holding the rest of the band together. then Josh Rosa is the glue of the highest quality (but please don’t sniff him, kids).
With tracks like “I Killed Laura Palmer”, perhaps the ’90s vibe I get from the work isn’t so mysterious after all. I no longer ask bands what it is they mean to accomplish for fear that what I write will become more what I think they want me to hear than what I actually hear, so I can’t tell you precisely what the guys in the band were trying to achieve, but I can say this: If they weren’t heavily influenced by the music they grew up with, then it’s time for me to find something else to do with my time. Also, Foo Fighters.
The five tracks of this EP, although unfinished as of now, are upbeat, smart and really, really catchy. There isn’t a single one that isn’t radio-ready for heavy rotation on any station worth listening to, and I’m very keen to hear the end product. Look for a mention of Scenic in a sidebar here when the disc is ready to drop. In the meantime, follow Scenic on Facebook or through their presence online at 423 Bragging Rights.