Listen Up: Wednesday, March 01, 2006
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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
Centro-matic

Fort Recovery (Misra Records)

By Caroline Collier

Great artists constantly reinvent themselves, and 2006 marks 10 years since the guys in Centro-matic first got together and made evolving part of their musical mission. This year also signifies the release of the Denton band’s eighth full-length, Fort Recovery. When you’re as well-loved and revered as Centro (as the band is affectionately known), how much more reinvention can you manage? The follow-up to 2003’s Love You Just the Same proves that all of the sleep-deprived songwriting sessions and thousands of miles logged in a tour bus have allowed frontman Will Johnson and company to expand by growing more introspective, to be able to masterfully pare away layers of intentioned or accidental artifice and focus on the genuinely raw, glowing signature sound at the core.

The album doesn’t expend energy trying to prove anything, freeing up space for Johnson’s coppery, homegrown voice to really breathe, especially in the world-weary “Patience for the Ride,” in which both clean and distorted guitars intertwine with subtle piano over the steady intricacy of Matt Pence’s rock drums. Throughout the album, in place of Love You’s acrimony and busy tempos, a calming vibe winds, along with even deeper reverberations from Pence, one of indie-rock’s most lauded and admired stickmen. Dynamically complex and intimately engaging at every turn, Fort Recovery never tries to keep pace with Johnson’s vocal delivery, instead illuminating it with a hypnotic spotlight. In the ballad “I See Through You,” about mindful maturity, the singer leaves his mark by making an incision straight to the soul. Part of a band’s growth process requires transcending expectations and pre-conceived notions, and “alt-country” darlings Centro-matic separate themselves from the label by rocking with elegant depth, most noticeably in the un-Centro-like “Take the Maps and Run.”

Since the prolific Johnson writes and orchestrates most of the songs, you’d think that Centro-matic is merely a studio band. But North Texans and, oddly enough, a lot of Europeans know that, if anything, Centro is a live outfit — and one that plays upward of 200 gigs a year. For Centro’s legion of hardcore fans, one of the best things is that the band’s songs are always evolving — years, even months after its release, a favorite studio track may at first sound unidentifiable in a live setting. A quality that recommends Fort Recovery is that nearly all 12 tracks sound as if they’ve been fine-tuned not only over the past few years but since the birth of rock ‘n’ roll itself.

Sat at Dan’s Sliverleaf, 903 Industrial, Denton. 940-320-2000.


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