A quick few questions and I’m sure you’ll find that there is actually very little most know about New Zealand. At risk of mentioning Lord of The Rings, I won’t pretend to know much about the beautiful nation in the South Pacific.
Whatever you think you know of New Zealand or whatever you think you’d want to know, forget it; all you need to know is 2 a.m. Orchestra.
Driven by the mentality of “Better to know the music is being heard by a wider audience than make a few bucks from high-priced sales.” David Kelley (Vocals and Guitar) explains that Working To Divide will be released as a “Pay What You Want” via their website September 24, 2013.
The guys of 2 a.m. Orchestra, David Kelley, Andy Smith (Guitar), Tim Gittins (Bass) and Chris Dawson (Percussion), – all but Kelley playing more of a live support role – would be the first to admit they are an ever-evolving style and sound, but as a whole they demonstrate an uncanny live-in-the-moment self-awareness. The twelve track record took nearly four years to complete and shows, in every chord and beat, a great deal of care. Impressively enough, the album exudes a nearly Stereophonics-like presence. Opening with a chaotic rock style (“Heads and Tails”) then transitioning into a punk pop sound (“Ain’t Got the Fight”) I wasn’t entirely sure where we were headed, but the moment I hit “Believe in Me” I knew this is something worth holding on to.
Little did I know it would hold on to me and not let go.
While staying true to a near essential rock, even striking mid-to-late 90s similarities, 2 a.m. Orchestra, if picked apart – slightly distorted riffs, 4/4 foundation, etc – appears familiar. But when you incorporate the instrumentals and vocals like they do, a level is reached that cannot be taught. Much in the same vein of Travis, this foursome makes magic out of everything they touch; they take a little and make a lot.
I said it once and I’ll say it again, a sound like this doesn’t come along often and when it does, grab hold and don’t let go. In a world defined by “likes” and “followers” one would think 2 a.m. Orchestra doesn’t belong in the same sentence as other “big” bands. After all, they have 275 “likes” on Facebook . But truth be told, if someone asks me what I know about New Zealand, the first thing out of my mouth will be 2 a.m. Orchestra.
Hang on kids, things just got really interesting here at Nanobot. Normally I try and temper my obsessive fan nature with some clever words, but that went out the window about a week ago. I received a copy of 2 a.m. Orchestra’s debut LP and I cannot stop listening to it. I tried. I took my headphones out and set my iPod down on the counter, and like out of a Sam Raimi film, they snaked their way through the house and back into my ears. After failing to fight off the awesome music headphone monster that is Working to Divide, I gave in and listened to my heart’s content.
It is so refreshing when a band gets what it takes to make a Rock album. I capitalize Rock because this album goes out and captures that capital R. 2 a.m. Orchestra wastes no time with the opener, “Heads and Tails,” with its dirty riffs and crunching power chords. The album then varies through pop-rock (“Ain’t Got the Fight”, “Unstuck,”), ballads (“Believe in Me,”Fire Escape”), 90s grunge (“Have it Your Way,” “Karmic Wealth”), a little reggae (“Living Longer”), a little Showbiz-era Muse (“Six Lines of Ash”) and something of grand ambition like what you would expect out of an orchestra (“Fortune and Glory,” “Working to Divide”). The end result may be something that sounds like it came out of the 90s, but is smart enough to know its influences without being slavish to them.
Singer-songwriter David Kelley, while sporting an amazing beard, skirts the edge of melodious vs. soulful rock with his vocals. Guitars traverse the aforementioned musical landscape with some great licks and punching riffs; the bass rumbles through each track while drums and other various percussive instruments slam the point home: this is one hell of a rock band.
The album can be enjoyed track by track, but is constructed in such a way that it pays off to take the time to go through and get to know each track. That payoff comes in spades with closing title track “Working to Divide,” a solid arena rock ballad that just builds, and builds, and builds, then goes full orchestral and when it closes out… wow…
I just take a deep breath.
And press play again, because I feel like I earned it.
Maybe as a child of the 90s this album just happens to be right up my alley, but I really hope that isn’t the case. Sure it has a lot of the decade’s sensibility, right down to the album art: a contiguous line drawing of what I can only guess is Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” drawn with someone’s non-preferred hand. But if you like Rock with a capital R, please do yourself a favor and grab “Working to Divide” when it comes out on September 24th. If you are reading this after that date, then what are you waiting for? Get your orchestra on, no matter the time of the a.m.