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Again, For the First Time - Click to view! There was once a time when Bleach made sonically powerful, intelligent rock music. Well, that time has expired, and Bleach's return to the industry on Tooth and Nail Records proves how much they've waded into the ever-flowing stream of conformity. Again, For the First Time, Bleach's fourth release, doesn't sport anything really special; the band's "new" sound actually likens to pre-processed punk, but it's definitely worth a listen anyway. This latest album also sports a novel band roster (Dave Baysinger and Sam Barnhart remain Bleach's only original members), and the new members love to show off their talents in some unique ways.

One of those ways is their musical ability. Although it's not as polished anymore, these guys can still pull off some mind-blowing guitar riffs. A 15-second acoustic "Intro" opens the album before leading into a pummeling "Baseline" and following up with a series of short chord alternations and vocal harmonies. During the song's bridge, Barnhart and Byers add a very cool growling effect on their guitars. A smooth transition flows straight into "Celebrate," where a rapid, unwieldy drum solo begins the launch into the track's lyrics. This powerful loop continues throughout the entire song accompanied by Jerry Morrison's already-infamous bass romp. "We Are Tomorrow" is one cut finally reminiscent of past Bleach albums but doesn't improve much over the demo version released on MP3.com. In fact, it takes a little more getting used to but is enjoyable after repeated playbacks. Looking on the sunny side of things, "Found You Out" is an enjoyable summer stroll; the band's fascination with distortion gives way to peach-colored lyrics and a jumpy melody that entertains the sing-song rhyme scheme. There's also a lot to be said about "Said a Lot" as the scratchy vocal quality actually enhances the song's flow rather than detracts from it. This is definitely one of the best tracks on the record, and the soaring guitar solo on the bridge is to die for. Just when it seems the band is stretching their innovation, they plunge back into rock-and-roll mode on "Almost Too Late." Starting with crunchier-than-Pringles guitar chords, the band hurtles into a grungy sing-along adorned with plenty of screaming, hoops, and hollers from various band members - proof that Bleach definitely hasn't lost their fun edge.

Lyrical quality, on the other hand, doesn't venture into much uncharted territory. The project's third track, "Celebrate," deduces its title from the band members celebrating the days when they first came to meet Christ. This, they say, is a feeling they want to celebrate for the rest of their lives. "Found You Out" basically reaffirms that feeling as Bleach claims their lives have never been the same since they discovered salvation. At the same time, "Fell Out" contradicts these proclamations, speaking to God as if He were the victim of a faulty relationship. Baysinger and band regretfully apologize for "walking out" on God and wish to make amends but fail to realize that our Lord is bigger than someone's star-studded lover. "Broke In The Head" and "Almost Too Late" sail a parallel track lyrically; the first discusses witnessing to a lost friend, and the latter backs up the attempt with the notion that we could be living in the last days. Surprisingly, "Andy's Doin' Time" is more of a song about personal experiences than a story. Bleach's manager Shack is given a brief mention during the abridged third verse, and Baysinger victoriously sings about how the band is moving on after overcoming overwhelming odds. Finally, "Jen's Song," an apology to a close friend, closes the album with the familiar acoustic theme heard in the "Intro."

That being said, Bleach's return could be described as successful. Again, For the First Time paves the way for a new generation of Bleach fans while launching a new beginning for the band. The quality of the music took quite a dip, but it doesn't lack anything in excess and should be checked out by any rock aficionados out there. At the risk of sounding majorly corny, I'm going to say give Bleach's fourth disc a chance and listen to them again, for the first time.
- Rick Foux
August 2002
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