I'm Dan Ahn, Brooklyn transplant by way of Seattle, WA. Former music editor for The Northwestern Gazette.
All opinions reflected on this blog are my own.
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NOVEMBER 1, 2004
A Band Without a Sound: In Defense of Square Circle's Origins E.P.
What are the forces that define a generation? How do some voices rise to the forefront of public imagination and stay there, enshrined for generations to come, while others quietly recede to the margins? There is, of course, no single answer to this line of inquiry (the most reasonable choice would be "luck"), but in 2004, on the literal eve of a presidential election, they are certainly questions worth posing, because they lead to a final riddle: Who will become our icons? In the future, who will speak for our past?
These are large, dramatic themes to mention up front in a review of a self-released debut E.P. by an extremely young Brooklyn band, but in five short tracks Square Circle has managed to interrogate them, so elegantly that certain rock critics seem to have missed the point altogether. These detractors are distracted by high/low distinctions and dated conversations about originality (maybe there is a difference between people born at the end of the 70s and those born at the beginning of the 80s). In any case, they're not responding to what's really in front of them: that is, high-quality music with a deeply provocative argument to make.
The governing ethos of Square Circle is every ethos. They're true chameleons, changing their hue to adapt to every possible environment. This can be said of co-lead-songwriter Spencer Savard's unbelievable vocal range: he screeches like Richard Hell, he croons like Diana Ross. It can be said of his counterpart, co-lead-songwriter Nick Crandall's virtuoso guitar playing: Clapton's precision, Townes Van Zandt's tenderness, Patti Smith's rage. At their live shows, bassist Jacob Overman vamps like David Bowie's kid brother before he throws himself into amps like he's a Sex Pistol. And then there's Bill Bright, who may be New York City's most unshakeable drummer, holding down the fort with his stunningly impeccable abilities. Contrary to what others have said, Square Circle are not mimicks; mimickry is simply their form, and their live sets show how much care and precision it takes to shift shapes every three-and-a-half minutes.
The mistake that's been made about Square Circle is the notion that their work is thoughtless, easy, and cheap. They are quite the contrary. Their work is highly thoughtful, embodying the mentality of everyone who was raised with Talking Heads and James Taylor at the same time. Their work is insanely difficult, requiring specific technical ability for every allusion they make. And when their work is cheap, it's trying to be cheap - the point is that it's cheap. On their Origins E.P., Square Circle are laying out the groundwork for a new generational sensibility. It's too early to say whether they will claim a comparable status to their forbearers, but they are brilliantly ushering in a new era. May we welcome this moment with a changing of the guard.
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