MYSELF ALONE – Myself Alone
Written by John Payne
Racine-area post-grunge rockers Myself Alone do indeed rock – sometimes they rock very well. But they certainly don’t rock in way that’s never been heard before. Tracks from their self-titled album such as “Trapped in the Dark” and “Trash” feature riffs we’ve heard dozens of times before, from folks like 311, Godsmack, Velvet Revolver, and God knows who else.
However, the sometimes-generic riffs fail to pull Myself Alone down into the indistinguishable sludge of much mainstream hard rock. How do they escape and keep their heads above the surface in a place where both they and their music can breathe? Much of the answer lies in the dirty, raw (in this case, these are not synonyms for “sloppy”) production work all over the album. Produced by the band along with Don Damaschke, Myself Alone eschews all the overpolishing, endless overdubbing and studio postproduction that suck the life out of much modern hard rock (sometimes even when the songs are good). This could just as easily be the result of recording on a budget as it conscious effort, but the final product is the same. Opening track “Go” has monstrous riffs that make liberal use of flange; by using a pedal and playing through the amp as opposed to adding it after the fact with Pro Tools, guitarists Dave Aiello and Kenny James make them organic, alive and vibrant, despite the fact that they aren’t particularly unique.
The formula isn’t always successful. The anti-fundamentalism rant “That’s Why,” for example, has harsh, slightly out-of-tune vocals that fail the meld with the low-key, semi-melodic riff backing them up (lyrics such as “Soaking in hypocrisy / Can I get you a towel?” certainly don’t help maintain the seriousness the song is supposed to have, although they are pretty hilarious). Still, most of these tracks are cuts of raw rock, that don’t allow the lo-fi production to overshadow their anthemic qualities, and once in a while they manage to take the actual music to same level as the overall sound; the scorching, exotic guitar solo on “What You See,” the precisely executed funk rhythms of “Go” and “Waste.”
Lead vocalist James also deserves a lot of credit for writing from a positive point of view without being a total cheeseball, the exceptions being the aforementioned towel bit and the phrase “Just take your dreams and drive” (from “Ride”). The albums’ lyrics challenge the religious right, encourage seizing the day, and establish a firm belief that the only opinion that matters is one’s own. Today, these themes are often expressed in hard rock as something along the lines of “being yourself is all that you can do” a la Audioslave. But James is frequently more thoughtful: “Fall back to sacred ground / In the peace that I have found.” The music on Myself Alone has been made many times, but it hasn’t always been made right. Myself Alone are not included in the latter category.