Talk about your nervy titles. A metal guy pulls the plug on his amp stacks and makes a record of gently emotive singing and delicate acoustic picking; he knows full well that somewhere, some old fan of his is going to take this thing off after a minute because in their estimation if itís not heavy, itís boring. This one time the philistine, like the proverbial broken clock, would be right. Stay Awake is quite a departure from Mike Scheidtís work with YOB, and while you want to give the guy credit for stepping out of his comfort zone, heíd deserve more if the record was more engaging.
The cover, with its bobbing eyes and grasping hand, sets you up for some sort of downer folk trip, and itís true that Scheidt sounds authentically bummed out. The stolid acoustic strumming and spare extra instrumentation gathers around his voice like mourners following a coffin out of a church, and freed from the need to compete with amp stacks and a rhythm section, Scheidt has plenty of space to emote. If he were a more interesting singer, that might be enough right there, but his voice follows well-worn cadences to predictable ends. His singing sounds vulnerable, but the words he sings are generally too bald to hold much interest. Relationships are rough, but theyíre worth it, he tells us, and thatís the problem; heís telling, not showing.
The music, while well recorded and played, isnít much more compelling. Scheidt is a capable acoustic guitarist with a flair for ornamentation, but well-wrought filigree does not an album make. Confronted with the choice between hearing this record again and taking a nap, Iíd opt for the snooze.