"Forty friggin' tracks?!"
- that was the subtle and poetic message ensconced in my email to the lovely
Spice D Warlock (I wonder if that is her real name?) when the largest album
in the history of the world ever landed like a bad parachutist in my yellow
and black stryped in-tray. Merely listing the titles of all forty tracks would
have seen my review become longer than the works of some of my fellow scribes
but, being the legend that I am, I ploughed through the multitude of tracks
like a flame-throwing tank ploughs through a Branch Davidian compound.
There's a not very famous quote that goes something like this; "You are all failures but the important thing is to have the courage to fail magnificently." I remember things like this when relatively unknown bands release albums consisting of forty tracks. I applaud Chicago's The Crossing for attempting this gutsy move that shadows the 'In Your Honor' set by Foo Fighters, in that one half of 'Chemical Gods' - which is, incidentally, wrapped in some great cover art - is a rock fest while the other is an acoustic affair.
The 'Ego Side' of the album consists of twenty tracks that showcase a whole host of influences; 'Use Your Illusion' era Guns N' Roses, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice In Chains, AC/DC, Rush. The vocals veer from Ozzy to Axl, from Sebastian Bach to pure, unashamed AOR. The sheer amount of material on offer here means that there are so many bands that I hear a little of in certain tracks - Warrior Soul, Saigon Kick, Extreme, there's a Stryper-esque "whoa-oh" vocal here, a bruising White Zombie riff there. 'The Radio Song' - with its ironic lyrical attack on the moronic - is a real highlight, as is melodic murder ballad 'Baby Blue'. If nervous glances are exchanged when the slick hard rock takes several detours into the parp parp 'n' permed world of Adult Orientated Rock, then eyes will surely widen as 'Come Calling', with its definite Duran Duran overtures, quickly leads the listener to 'Party Machine' - a full tilt 80's synth pop number. A pretty faithful - albeit with diluted chugging guitar - cover of 'Relax' by Frankie Goes To Hollywood closes the disc and, well, I'm simply blown away by the balls of this band.
The 'Alter Ego Side' is as equally ambitious as its sister disc. 'Time On Fire', 'I Don't Write Love Songs' and 'Another Day' are among the finer songs on offer here. 'How Do You Do?' is total overblown 80's and full of keyboards. 'You Can't Desert Me Now' and 'The Love', with its great female backing vocals, are the best tunes on the disc. This side does, however, threaten to slip into driving CD mode at several junctures, with 'One Time Around' bringing up an unexpected REO Speedwagon reference. 'Online' is an eclectic example of sci-fi hi-fi meeting prog, the latter a four letter word that is only in my vocabulary due to my ownership of the album 'Six' by Mansun.
I have to give credit to The Crossing. Forty tracks, all impeccably produced and performed, a massively diverse set of influences all given a chance to shine - there is a confidence, even arrogance, about the band that all successful acts need. Their refusal to be pigeonholed is both their beating heart and their Achilles' heal. For every open minded listener like myself, there will be a homophobic asshole waiting to slaughter them for the Frankie cover and its sister songs spread over both discs. If doing, and playing, whatever they like was the main goal, then The Crossing will be enormously satisfied. Commercial success, however, could be a lost cause as this fever dream of an album will raise more eyebrows than it will devil horns.
by Gaz E.
Visit the Crossing Website