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Night Control - Tyranny

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Artist: Night Control

Album: Tyranny

Label: Kill Shaman

Review date: Apr. 14, 2011

If you choose to go searching for reviews of Night Controlís earlier albums, such as Death Control and last yearís Life Control, youíll find frequent remarks about inconsistency. Itís not just inconsistency from song to song, either, but within songs -- critics would have you believe that sole Night Controller Christopher Curtis Smith is impatient, easily bored, or too enamored of the capabilities of his home studio. On Tyranny, Smith does nothing to appease the criticisms; he sticks to his guns and lets it all hang out, as they used to say. The albumís centerpiece is its best song, but at the same time is less a song than a collection of vaguely related pieces stitched together. The stitching is clever, but the songís still a patchwork.

An overall druggy vibe hangs over things, but occasionally the songs accelerate past gentle loping to reach rocker status. One really has no choice but to drop the Velvet Underground reference point, both due to the guitar workís clear inspiration and Smithís Lou Reed-like voice. From the jangly guitar and opiated chanting of album opener "So Cold" to the layered guitars and vocals of "Mountains I Want," thereís no escaping the origins of Night Controlís sound. But thatís certainly not to say that this is mimicry -- not at all.

Many of the pieces here have nuggets of intriguing songwriting. "Itís Always Different" is a pleasant rock piece, and "Mountains I Want" could have been rather gorgeous. Both, however, fall victim to Smithís penchant for wanton disruption. Itís difficult to discern his goals, and fruitless to hazard guesses, but ultimately the result is like a wander through an art schoolís year-end gallery show. One moment youíll stop and think, "that was really nice," then youíll hurry past a blurred picture of who-knows-what to get to the next good piece. "Frozen Eyes" raises its head initially in a mass of burbling low-end oomph and chiming guitars while the vocals try too hard for a stoned-haze vibe. Thereís a song in there crying to get out, but the seemingly deliberate attempts to obscure it grow old after the first couple of minutes.

"Mountains I Want" is a sad case because amidst the layers of sound lies a beautiful song that could have been rather epic. Instead, it falls prey to a mix like a sugar-infused 6 year old, inevitably leaving the question of motives. Is the terrific rhythm at the end purposely cut off after 20 seconds, when it could have been something great? Are the elements of the mix dropped in at random volume levels on purpose? The songís still very rewarding, but it could have been much more.

That sense of frustration and missed opportunity is seemingly everywhere, but happily the centerpiece -- the 16-minute "Motorcycle Mask" -- uses the pervasive restlessness to its advantage. Not exactly a song, "Motorcycle Mask" is more like a EP song collage dropped into the middle of Tyranny, and it boasts noticeably cleaner production. It kicks off with a steady rock beat and vocals that blur the line between Lou Reed and Robert Smith, then simply cuts between a couple of other pieces as if Smith couldnít be bothered to work out the rest of the songs. This patchwork approach continues, with some wonderful passages stitched together; as the piece progresses, the seams feel less troublesome.

We may never know whether Smith is unable to focus for the length of a song or has just spent too much time in art school. Regardless, Tyranny is a rewarding and entertaining listen if you exercise tolerance. Weíll all be watching for the album where Smith brings his focus to bear, because if the fragments are this intriguing, the completed thoughts should be something special.

By Mason Jones

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