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Friday, June 12, 2009

Silverstein: A Shipwreck in the Sand

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

“...A man, a woman, and their child sleep in their home. The man awakes to the smell of smoke. He saves his family from a fire. As they struggle with the flawed insurance systems in place, and move to a hotel, everything starts to unravel. The promise of the American dream is gone. A hope for a life of luxury, money and wealth has dissolved. Adultery, addiction and enmity take its place. Passion once felt is no longer. Hatred grows. A union of trust once pledged is now questioned. This union was not about love. This union was not about the cause. This union was for the wrong reasons...
This is the story of A Shipwreck in the Sand.”


I don’t know why I am reviewing this album on the News-Herald Web site and I say this for a number of reasons.

One, I fully realize that no one who reads the News-Herald probably even knows who Silverstein is. Two, if you have heard Silverstein chances are, you wouldn’t like them anyway.

They are a rare breed and lead singer Shane Told describes his “post-hardcore” Canadian band as a mixture between the whiny pop-group The Get-Up Kids and the heavy metal band Slayer. It doesn’t make sense, but it works. For me, at least.

When they are soft they are soft, when they are hard they are hard and it mixes and matches all in the same song. I’m normally not a fan of heavier music, especially anything with some sort of screaming in it, but for some reason Silverstein mixes everything into a blender and the outcome tastes good.

Before we go any further, yes, the band did take their name from author Shel Silverstein.

I have been a fan of theirs since “When Broken is Easily Fixed,” their debut release in 2003.

It also doesn’t hurt that I met and hung out with all five members of the band when I was a 17-year-old at Pirates Cove in Cleveland. We hung out for nearly two hours before their performance. They bought me and my buddy Meatball chicken wings and some, well, I’ll just say beverages.

That is my only brush-in personally with “rock stars” and it has stuck with me for the past six years. (Although I once phone interviewed Hawthorne Heights, LostProphets and the street-legend, Obie Trice)

I felt compelled to review their new record “A Shipwreck in the Sand” because I find it, dare I say, brilliant.

It’s a concept album that actually has a concept. I hate when bands say they are releasing a concept album and then it’s just the same ole’ same ole.’ They write down personal lyrics and attach a “character” to them so it's as if they just recorded some monumental epic album because it’s “different.”

Told said he made “A Shipwreck in the Sand” to coincide with the current times. Where the economy is ripping apart businesses, wallets, relationships and in this album's case, marriages.

“A Shipwreck in the Sand” from one track to the other follows a husband and wife who have lost everything and because of it, are completely falling apart.

From the album's synopsis above which reads like a movie, they wake to a burning household only to survive and move into a hotel and thus, the drama and hardships ensue.

Because this is a record, and not a movie, I’ll spill some spoilers. Although it's suspected in some of the middle tracks, especially on the track "I am the Arsonist," we learn in the last song, the surprisingly acoustic “The End” — featuring a guest appearance from Valerie Poxleitner who tells her side of the story from the wive’s perspective — the husband set the house on fire planning to kill the family but at the last minute he admits, “I couldn’t just leave you there.”

With the downfall of today’s economy, we’ve seen so many instances across the country in the past year where husbands and wives have unfortunately either ended their lives or have done the unthinkable - killing their family - because of the irreversible debt they are in — often times facing prison sentences.

From the first lyrics on the opening song “A Great Fire” to the final lyrics on the closing song “The End,” the album stays true to its concept throughout.

“Burning Down, we can’t stop it we got to get out. Start again, our memories are gone forever. Don’t try to turn this around on me. I’m the one that saved you. This was my home. This was my life, it’s not always just about you.” -“A Great Fire”

“This union, a battle fought and lost. This union, was not about the cause. This union, was never about love.” (“this union,” referring to their marriage) -“The End” (these same lyrics are also found on the title track.)

This is Silverstein’s fourth release and by far their most creative and artistic work to date and is so far this year’s pleasant surprise release for me. Their first album was great but the quality of their music declined with each of their following releases “Discovering the Waterfront” in 2005 and “Arrivals and Departures” in 2007. The latter leading me to believe Silverstein wasn't going to make it too much longer.

“A Shipwreck in the Sand” was totally unexpected. I didn’t know they had it in them.

They’ve come along way since buying some mid-western under-agers, well, beverages, at a small town Cleveland bar.

Listen to the title track: “A Shipwreck in the Sand” a song that questions the value of marriage when the times are tough

“They pledged their allegiance to the captain, and vowed to be there no matter what, in sickness, health, and possible death. As time passed by, there was no new land to be found. As the days grew shorter, and the nights grew longer and colder, the crew became more and more skeptical about the captain’s vision. Originally passionate and committed, true and faithful, they now began to revolt.”


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