For the thirsty, the suffering and all the rest.
Listening to Start Here, the stunning new full-length from Austin-based five piece,The Gloria Record, it's safe to say, the band has fully realized all the potential their eponymous 1998 debut E.P. promised — and then some. Start Here, is an ambitious recording, over two years in the making — and trust me, it shows. TGR's sound has evolved tenfold and Start Here is the manifestation of that growth. Not only is it arguably the band's finest record to date, a career defining masterpiece, if you will; it is perhaps the best record of 2002, thus far. The befitting title itself suggests — albeit unwittingly — that longtime TGR fans, newcomers and detractors alike, dispense with any predisposition they may have held about the band's previous efforts and well, start here.
Appropriately, the sprawling, ten-track, sonic-soiree begins with the title track. As the click of a metronome introduces the song, Ben Houtman's expansive yet plaintive synth playing takes center stage and accompanies Chris Simpson (guitar/vocals) as he succinctly delivers the album's manifesto: Lose yourself, you're young and you've got time/It's simple then; start here and move forward/You'll figure it out eventually, or not/Either way, you'll have company.
While, it's evident TGR has undergone a massive overhaul of their sound, thankfully, they haven’t forsaken their trademark segues. As the synth lines of "Start Here" slowly fade out, the track seamlessly segues into the manic, drumming precision of Brian Malone and the sweeping guitar lines of Brian Hubbard on "Good Morning Providence." In what is presumably a documentation of Simpson's frustrations in making the record, he sings: Good morning providence, we've got a situation here/ I'm in the belly of a whale and haven’t seen the sun for days/I'm cut and paste inside this tune/Good morning providence, the chorus is a wreck, so mind your head and bless this mess...while the rest of the band intricately weaves in and out of his phrasing.
"Cinema Air", opens with Hubbard in the drivers seat, with guitar tone reminiscent of the grittier tracks on R.E.M.'s Monster, before being pushed way down in the mix to make way for more of Houtman's piano meanderings. While the layered orchestration of this new record is simply amazing, it's Simpson’s self-depreciating, somewhat cynical lyrics that once again steal the show.
Please tell the whole world I am here to be their hero, with the perfect body and straight teeth/ Strings swelling every time I blink, with the perfect body and straight teeth and strings swelling every time I blink/ On the big screen with my big dreams, 'cause you know I am the drama king.
– Excerpt from "Cinema Air "
If you haven't already gathered by now, the most noticeable difference, aside from keyboard-driven lush orchestration of this record and its predecessors, is Simpson's lyrical forthrightness. While Simpson has always been a masterful lyricist, since his days in Mineral, his lyrics this time around seem less esoteric (unless the songs on the old record were about you) and more direct. The only time on the entire record that you're reminded he's still the same affable guy who wrote such memorable heartfelt songs as, "MD" and "ForIvadell," is during the opening lines of "I Was Born In Omaha," an ode to being, well, born in Omaha, of all things. The track begins with Simpson’s voice accompanied solely by an acoustic guitar and sounds like classic TGR we all know and love. However, by the time the second verse rolls around, the track is given the full TGR treatment and you're also reminded that TGR is all grown up now. Moreover, listening to the next track, "Ascension Dream," I can hardly fathom any other band pulling off a song about hitting a deer and making it sound even remotely believable. However, TGR does just that, without coming off as being even the slightest bit corny.
Pull the flesh over those bones and rise, 'cause you're not supposed to lie here in the middle of the road, in the middle of the night/stand up and breathe in again and run along now to the other side, cause your friends are standing by./Tell them I'm sorry that I ever learned to drive.
— Excerpt from "Ascension Dream"
Bottom line: if it's visceral, thinking-man's rock you seek, you've come to the right place. Start Here is TGR's most mature and best sounding (hats off to Saddle Creek svengali Mike Mogis, for the production) record to date. The lull between touring in support of 2000's A Lull In Traffic and writing/recording Start Here obviously served the band well, as the songs had time to simmer and evolve on their own. Even though the arrangements are seemingly complex at times, all of the players leave room for one another and never step on each others toes, leaving you with the sense this record was a collaborative and well thought out effort.
On a scale of rock bands who are oft compared to "the world’s most important band": If one is Paloalto and ten is Muse, Start Here rates an eleven: Remy Zero.Rothroc
Hybrid Music Reviews
"Start Here" has been a long time coming for the 5-piece Austin, TX band The Gloria Record. They formed in '97 and have released 2 ep's previous to it. Chris Simpson (guitar/vocals) and Jeremy Gomez (bass/keyboards) were members of the late-great band Mineral, and for the TGR, their lineup have been accompanied by Brian Hubbard (guitar), Brian Malone (drums), and Ben Houtman (keyboards, piano, organ). "Start Here" has been in the works for years and is finally finished. Was it worth the wait? To put it simply, yes. Being a huge fan of the Mineral sound, I loved the 2 ep's. They were pretty similar. When I popped in this disc for the first time, that is the type of sound I expected, and to my surprise the first listen was tough. It was so much different. But I knew in time it would grow on me, and it has. TGR has evolved immensely and developed a sound of their own. The crucial element that has set them apart is the keyboards. I would say it is the main instrument of the album. The sounds of the keyboards collide together beautifully for a masterpiece of musical artistry. The keyboards accompanied by the other instruments and the voice like no other of Chris Simpson makes this album track after track of enjoyment and relaxation. The album has 10 tracks and over 50 minutes of music, with songs that are heartfelt and honest. This isn't the catchiest album of the year, but I encourage you to give it a few listens through and see if you think it may be one of the best albums of the year.Bryan
The Gloria Record's Start Here begins with an anomaly, the synth-driven song from which the album bears its name. After that intro, however, the rest of the album progresses to become the heir apparent to Mineral's evolution. In fact, Start Here far surpasses anything Mineral did, or the Gloria Record has done up to this point themselves. After a few listens, the strength of lead singer Chris Simpson's voice begins to penetrate into your head like a siren. The keyboards are effortlessly worked into the songs and, from track to track, Start Here flows like the weeks of the year.
Occasionally the songs are melancholic and gloomy like winter, other times full of hope and grace like summer, but behind them all are power, strength, beauty, and the knowledge that this might be the closest anyone can get to heaven while still in the flesh.
And if you don't feel lonely
Then you can't feel anything at all...
Then you can't feel anything at all...