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THE GOLDEN HUM (2001)
The Golden Hum - Click to view! I'd like to applaud Smallville, an intriguing late-night drama about Clark Kent's pre-Spandex days and really the only television show on the WB worth watching. Every Tuesday night I sit down to observe Clark busting up some bad guys while trying to gain the attention of the annoying Lana Lang, who already has a Neanderthal boyfriend, Whitney. Meanwhile, poor Chloe sulks in the background, doing everything she can to win Clark's love, and Clark's best friend Lex plots sneaky schemes to take over his father's company and kills various individuals all for sheer delight. Needless to say, this show borrows my soul one hour per week.

It was during this borrowed time that I discovered Remy Zero, the band who performs the Smallville theme song, "Save Me." Although the show played no more than a brief, thirty second clip, it was innovative enough: fresh, alternative guitar with a variety of hooks accompanied by resonating vocals. Those thirty seconds convinced me to run out to the local record store and pick up The Golden Hum, and what I received in return was nearly an hour of musical amazement.

The title track is what gets things rolling. It's a one-minute instrumental where Remy Zero demonstrates their incredible musical prowess by merely strumming a few chords, tweaking with synth automation, and climaxing to an electric guitar peak towards the end. Each following track ends with such a "Golden Hum" instrumental piece that connects one song to the next.

The first of the instant classics on this disc is "Glorious #1," the only song containing questionable lyrics. The song seems to describe two lovers who want nothing more than a one-night stand ("we don't have to be lovers / we don't have to be friends for no one / black souls in the desert / heads spinning you get anything you want"), but is the most rock-fronted effort on the entire album. Gregory Slay's drum-heavy percussion melds brilliantly with Jeffery Cain and Shelby Tate's onslaught of electric guitar, creating a track not to be skipped.

The award for "Track Most Likely to Become the Next Big Graduation Class Song" goes to "Perfect Memory," a soul-stirring melody laced with multiple string arrangements and Cinjun Tate's soaring yet tear-jerking vocals. "Perfect Memory" brings once forgotten childhood memories back into new light, but upon further examination is actually a story of lost love and the memories of her that will live on forever.

Another track deserving of mention finds Remy Zero looking for a place where they "Belong." Playing more like a country or folk tune than an alternative smash, "Belong" tells the in-depth story of the youthful love briefly touched on in "Perfect Memory." Because of this strong love, "summer quickly faded, and all of the stars had turned to stone...cause anywhere with you I knew I was home." The tune takes a depressing turn towards the end, as Tate pines over how he was "taken away" from his love, but the bond forged between them remains strong, and allows him to go on with life.

"Over the Rails & Hollywood High" elevates Remy Zero's sound back up to an 8 on the Richter scale of rock, inducing some previously unused crunchy guitar and cool distortion effects. At best guess, Cinjun describes a life marked by fortune, fame, and everything else a rock star could want, except for the crucial fact that God was cut out of the quotient. Unfortunately, God is never said to be put back in the picture, but a supposed "script revision" is mentioned, leaving a sliver of hope.

The repetitive screeching introduction of the next track will force listeners to "Smile." The song itself includes lyrical references of what sounds like an attempt to witness to an unknown friend who turns a deaf ear. In between several gauges of acoustic and electric switching, Tate urges his friend not to wait any longer, but the only response he receives in return is "Soon I'll do it," and the few times a decision is made, the friend is said only to have waited even longer. In the end, Tate's convincing argument wins out, as he describes his fate: "I will return as a brilliant shining light / the things I've said will all be proven right / one, one night / and your whole life's wasted."

"Impossibility" serves as a more than suitable finish to The Golden Hum, with a several killer drum solos and the most spiritual lyrical value of the album. Tate repeatedly spins off truths such as "Fine living makes you slow," along with a possible indicator of salvation: "See I woke up frail and perfect / see I woke up tired and worn / as the Old Man stands to judge us all / I believe I am reborn." His vocals also rise to new heights during the course of the song, likening to those of Kevin Griffin of Better Than Ezra. Some dazzling riffs are included among all of this, and the song's rather abrupt ending is made up for in the ensuing acoustic hidden track.

Remaining tracks on the record include "Out/In," "Bitter," and "I'm Not Afraid," unmentioned for their likenesses rather than their quality. All three are mainly acoustic based, and speak of rivalries with a significant other.

Remy Zero's The Golden Hum has been described by Elektra Records as "the exact opposite of today's disposable pop music," and for good reason. More than clever lyrics and catchy beats are at play here; this is unique and brilliant artistry. Although confusion prevails on whether Remy Zero can be considered "Christian" or not, the lyrical content seems to lean toward the positive. This is merely an assumption, however, and it's also possible that the somewhat spiritual overtones can be linked to some type of New Age philosophy as much as they can be to Christianity. A brief thank you in the liner notes reads "To all of the believers out there..." but it is unclear as to whether or not the band is speaking to Christians. We'll pray that they are. In the meanwhile, enjoy this recording for its ingenuity and for bringing something new into the music realm.
- Rick Foux
May 2002
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