Days of the New, Vol. 2

by: Days of the New

Clearly, Travis Meeks wasn't happy that his band (project may be the more appropriate word, actually) was dismissed as either an Alice in Chains/Pearl Jam ripoff or the naïve work of a group of teenagers upon the release of their 1997 eponymous debut. During the supporting tour for the album, he fired many of the original bandmembers and restructured the group so that it was clear that he was the driving force of the group. He continued to work hard throughout the recording of the band's second album, immodestly retitled Days of the New but far more ambitious than the name suggests. Opening with the sound of galloping horses, the album soon makes itself known as an epic, structured like a classic concept album but feeling exactly like a moodier, pretentious variation on Days of the New's post-grunge debut. There's no discounting Meeks' ambition, which is, in some ways, endearing; in a time of diminished expectations, where everybody settles for singles, he's swinging for the bleachers. No matter how silly the cowboy-themed opening, "Flight Response," may seem to jaded post-alternative ears, once the record begins to flow, it becomes intriguing, especially when Meeks hauls out the orchestras to elaborate his brooding soundscapes. But just as it becomes intriguing, it begins to stagnate, offering the same tempos and melody lines again and again. There's really no variation to the songs on Days of the New -- there's shifts in the production and arrangement that trick the ear into believing it's hearing something new. And in that production, Meeks reveals his true gifts. He knows how to arrange, creating an evocative sound with acoustic guitars, ambient drums, strings, and layered voices. Unfortunately, he doesn't quite come up with a set of songs to match this production, which means that this 14-track album feels like it runs longer than its hour, but the moments -- and that does occasionally mean isolated moments, not even songs -- that work are a definite improvement from his debut. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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