Monday, October 17, 2011

Album Review: Cassino - The Weight of Bother

The thing that makes music so unique is that it is more of a gold rush than it is an answer sheet. When someone wants to know who the best team in sports is all they have to do is look at a teams record or ranking, when someone wants to know what movie is the best all they have to do is look at the movies rotten tomatoes or other ripe reviews, and when someone wants to get to know another human being all they really have to do is Facebook them.

But music for some reason has withstood the 21st centuries easy solutions and easy answers. This is because the best music is often the music the music that you have to search the hardest for. A majority of the people who love music will tell you that the best music is not on the radio or on top of the charts. A majority of people who love music will tell you that they discovered the music they love from reading a review, from hearing about it from a friend or family member, or from just randomly going see one of the band gigs. For the people who genuinely care about music this is one of the things that makes listening to music such a unique, thrilling, and often life changing experience. Instead of giving us all of the answers, good music invites us on a lifelong gold rush that is just as exhilarating and new as it is rewarding and tiresome.
For a while I was just following the answer sheet of the charts and the radio. For a while all I really listened to was Christian music stations with my parents. The irony of this all though was that I thought I could only imagine a way out from the repetitive answer sheet that was the radio. After a while I realized that I did not want anyone giving me all of the answers, but I did not know how to get the answers myself. What was once an answer sheet had now become purgatory, what I once thought was righteous and wholesome music just sound like repeated hypocrisy, what once sounded like the only way to fit in now sounded like a roadblock to a life changing journey. For a long period of time I thought their was no way to search for the answers if there was an answer sheet right in front of me.

But then my brother Jason introduced me to Northstar's Pollyanna

Pollyanna and Northstar started my gold rush. The album sounded so different from anything on the radio: every chorus was so much more purposeful than any chorus about the afterlife, every lyric was so witty and emotional that it made me forget about Love, Liberty, Disco and turn my mind to relationships, rock, and moving on, every song was so perfect that it almost made me "Lose My Religion." But the irony of it all was through Northstar I had found an entirely new religion: searching for good music. Northstar helped me understand that music was a journey instead of a straight line to nowhere, they helped me understand that music was not about mercy saying no but about that girl next door saying yes, they helped me understand that music was not about making it rain but understanding what the rain really means, and they turned a boring answer sheet into a life changing gold rush.

But then in April 2005 Northstar broke up.

For a thirteen year old fat kid with no chance of getting asked to the middle school dance this was beyond heartbreaking. I felt like the rush was over and I was going to go back to the answer sheet that seemed to define everyone that I hated, I felt like music was once again a bridge to nowhere instead of a journey to all of my wildest dreams, and I once again stuck in purgatory listening to the moans of artists like Nickelback on my rock radio station. I felt like even though I hadn't even hit puberty yet that all of my youthful dreams were already over.

But then my brother Jason came home from college and told me that Nick and Tyler from Northstar had formed a new band called Cassino.

As soon as I heard this news I was beyond excited. I began to search for new bands again, I began to listen to new types of music, I began to go to live shows of obscure bands, and most importantly I began to give a shit again. Even though Northstar and Cassino sounded completely different they both seemed like they were the perfect soundtrack to my journey. The rebellious pop punk sound of Northstar was a great starting point for my journey and the soft rock and folk sounds of Cassino seemed like a flawless commentary of every step of my journey.

Maybe it was because the members of Cassino were going on this journey as well. With every brilliant folk song, the band seemed to distant themselves from the rocking sounds of Northstar. With every song that passed by without a chorus, Cassino seemed to distance themselves from the gigantic choruses that were in just about every Northstar song. With every new genre they defined on each album, Cassino seemed to be taking another almost hyperbolic step on a journey that most musicians do not have the talent or brain power to even comprehend. The new sound of every Cassino album had an almost mystical way of matching my musical journey and my journey to become a better human being. Cassino created two classic albums that define a new genre and showed their unbelivable growth as musicians. But they also created two albums that seem to define your musical journey with such ease and grace that you cannot wait for the next step. Listening to Cassino is like listening to your autobiography that you never wrote. The genius of the journey that listening to Cassino brings you on is that it is a gold rush that never really gives you any money or gold. But it gives you something that is much more important: a clear definition of yourself and a map to get to the next artist on your musical and personal journey.

But even this wasn't quite good enough for Cassino. On The Weight of Bother, Cassino are giving you different versions of songs that already provided crucial commentary for your neverending journey. The album opens up with the instrumental version of "Cannonball" known as "Cannonscore." With "Cannonscore" Cassino are giving us a different take on what was already one of my favorite songs of all-time. Even though "Cannonball" is a better song, "Cannonscore" seems to be a more open version of the song that allows us to feel like we are attending whatever party the members of Cassino are going to. On the alternate version of "Maddie Bloom" the members of Cassino give the song a Bon Iver like feel that makes it seem like less of a love song and more of a love story. Instead of sounding like the fifth song on a spectacular folk album the alternate version of "Maddie Bloom" sounds like one of the best three tracks off of For Emma, Forever Ago. The SOS version of "The River" makes what was once a dramatic end to a classic album sound like a top 40 country song that I can actually listen to.

All of the new versions and new songs on The Weight of Bother are extremely well done and add something completely new to a couple of musicians that define themselves on newness and uniqueness. This EP will not define every step of your musical journey like the first two Cassino albums did. But with every new version of every old classic The Weight of Bother will make you daydream of fixing old mistakes and relationships, will make you go back and fix these old mistakes, and will make you dream of what your life could be if you just had that second, that day, that year, or even this life over again. And sometimes that is more fun than actually taking the next step in "the journey."


1. Cannonscore
2. Maddie Bloom (Alternate)
3. Tin Man's Throne (Full Band)
4. Conrad
5. Cannonball (Alternate Acoustic)
6. The River (SOS Version)

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