Listen Up: Wednesday, October 10, 2002
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Red Animal War

Black Phantom Crusaders (Deep Elm Records)

By Ken Shimamoto

Hmm, associations abound here. First of all, which is the band name, which is the album title? They seem interchangeable. But these guys do get credit for taking their name from a line in Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage (Civil War classic written by a guy who never saw combat, bless his heart). And they’re a band from — get this —Grand Prairie, on Deep Elm Records out of ... Charlotte, N.C. Their lead singer is Justin Wilson — not to be confused with the deceased Cajun chef of the same name, although there is a song on Black Phantom Crusaders called “Jambalaya” (not to be confused with the Hank Williams Sr. composition).

This emo thing keeps on and keeps on, and I suppose to a lot of people, this is really the sound of rock today. So what to say about it? To begin with, Wilson sings well enough, and the band’s playing is very tight and precise, with complex, tricky passages executed flawlessly. But none of the melodies are memorable enough to elevate the songs above the level of the generic. “Gattaca,” for instance, sounds a bit like innumerable radio songs ... kind of a “Blink-182 meets Tool.”

Probably the most distinctive composition here is “Straight Lines for Construction Workers,” a workingman’s saga as Bruce Springsteen would never have written it, which boasts an interesting saxophone (!) arrangement. The lyrics to “Photel California” scan pretty well as poetry, and those to “Right Now, Today, I Don’t Believe In Hell” tell a haunting, harrowing tale of one of life’s casualties. Trouble is, I don’t generally buy rock records for the lyrics. Do you?


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