Is there anything a band can really do without? Drummers and bassists are indispensable. Guitarists summon the magic and give the punters something to throw things at. Keyboardists? Well, sometimes they’re OK. The dude with the bagpipes? Folk Metal is the new Sex.
But what about the vocalist? While they are often the focus, they are, in a way, the most disposable part of the band. Sure, when they sound great, they are rock gods, half crushed under the weight of women’s knickers. But a crap singer can sink a band, for all its talent. (See my recent review of Haze Mage’s recent album for a deeper delve into this topic.)
Lead singers exude drama, flouncing, prima donna excesses, and laryngitis. They’re like accordions – all very good if you’ve got room for them, but noisy baggage if not. They can be more trouble than they are worth.
So, why not just ditch the warbling ponce altogether? This is certainly the case for Macedonian Lines (Heavy Psych Sounds), the new album by venerable Calfornian experimental rockers, Yawning Man. The record is purely instrumental; a strangely soothing series of tracks which would work very well as soundtracks for something or another.
The best track is ‘Melancholy Sade’, a reminiscent, spaced out and yet truly effecting number. It invokes rich moods of vast journeys made, regrets incurred, and happy reminders whispered. While the riffs and solos are wonderful, it’s the bass lines which really stand out, throbbing with life, sadness and grandeur. Simple and effective, yet evocative, it crushes in a way some far heavier bands could never dream of. You see, to have an effect on the listener is more significant than to bludgeon them.
That’s not to say that the rest of the album is a disappointment. Tracks like ‘Bowie’s Last Breath’ and opener ‘Virtual Funeral’ stand out on their own merits in terms of quality and
engaging vibes. Freed from the pressure to provide a foundation for someone to sing over,
the band focuses instead on effective and streamlined music, each “song” (can you even call them that anymore?) resonating in its own way. And yes, it makes the listener think and feel in a way most music just does not.
So who really needs a vocalist? Whisper it – but maybe they’re more optional than they might like to think…
7 / 10