Akron/Family | Review | p funk

philosophies, and musical genres explode

Meek Warrior
Young God, 2006
rating: 3/5

With last year's self-titled debut, Akron/Family established themselves as the best emo-band-for-big-kids around. Sure, there was plenty of sundrop psychedelia tangled up in their songs, and their live shows quickly transformed into wild and wooly campfire theatre, with band members starting drum circles in the middle of the audience and interjecting with unexpectedly skronky sax outbursts. But if you want to talk about what animated their recorded material, you had to turn to some of the most naked, earnest lyrics this side of ŠAnd You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead's Source Tags and Codes. The Family stuck their necks out with lines like "Thinking of you/ There's lightning bolts in my chest," and they actually came away largely unscathed, thanks to complex, even messy sonics that betrayed their fundamental maturity. Bald emoting burns so much cleaner when it's accompanied by spectral electronic manipulation that would make Brian Deck grin or uncanny guitar riffs that suggest a less calculating and pretentious Joan of Arc.

A year later, the boys are feeding us far less sentimental remarks: "A true spaceship has no destination/ Only direction," they sing in "The Rider." And while this purposiveness-without-a-purpose argument may not be as strong an edict against art-with-a-message as the band probably hopes ­ they are, after all, using the song to make a point ­ but it accurately describes the space that Meek Warrior imagines. This is an astral plane for free play of the imagination, a wide-open zone in which you can connect The Boredoms' tidal surge, cheerleading chants, afrobeat, and free jazz (which happens in "Blessing Force") or simply drift away on a stream of earthy hand percussion and recycled flowerchild spew (see "Gone Beyond"). It's also a place where you can't speak a word about relationships, unless you're asking the Divine to help you reflect some vaguely-defined brand of cosmic love.

Cacophonous, absurd, and fragmented, Meek Warrior is an admirable step towards a hedonistic utopia where all religions, philosophies, and musical genres explode into one overpowering, kaleidoscopic sensory experience, but in the end it's just a step. Each track feels more like a costume change than a true exploration of new waters, as the group's newfound love of blustery free-for-all psych ultimately has more to do with the members' broad record collections than their ability to function as versatile musicians.

1. Blessing Force
2. Gone Beyond
3. Meek Warrior
4. No Space in This Realm
5. The Lightning Bolt of Compassion
6. The Rider (Dolphin Song)
7. Love and Space