Usually, when I read that a band is from Connecticut, the skeptic in me immediately jumps out. Bands from the home state get the rough treatment, not just because I want to hear something nice coming out of CT, but because, from my experience, they tend to be in the mediocre/bad spectrum of bands. There are exceptions of course, but like I said, I'm hard on the locals. The Silent Groove is no exception, but Live at Sully's appears to be fairly nice-looking live record.
The liner notes state that this is their first long-player. Considering the normal trends, releasing a whole album's worth of material in a live format as your debut is bold, and they state that on their "Intro" track.
Going right into the first song, track 2 entitled "On Point," lead vocalist Matt Zeigler dives into rhyming over his band mate's live instrumentation. Combining keyboards, groovy bass lines, and strong beat-keeping from drummer Paul Miniero, they incorporate a funky groove over hip-hop rhyming. The second and third tracks are strong: the groove never dulls, and the rapping is a continuous stream of whip-crack rhymes. Track four, "Lady Lady," departs form the steady hip-hop and funk, and goes into a ska-influenced song, the upbeats being more highlighted. Zeigler moves from rapping to singing nicely- his voice highlights the music and gives off a solid feeling.
But the next track begins to dull the record. The continuous boasting and bragging of the lyrical superiority of the band, coupled with the constant reminders that the show is being recorded for a record takes away from the mellow, smooth grooves the band is playing. What saves the songs is that keyboardist Omer Shemesh literally does tickle the Rhodes organ he's playing: the tinkling keys along with the steady drums and tricky fills of Miniero hold the songs together.
Track six, "Freestyle" is just that, though unimpressive. Asking guest musicians to come up onstage, Zeigler boasts more with stale backups from the guests, trading rhymes over slowly changing tempos and funky bass lines. Live at Sully's goes right into the next track, and the continuous flow of steady beats and dancing fingers on the keyboard gets boring. But the next song, "Everybody (Shine)" refreshes, with more guests musicians adding horns and razor sharp guitar plucking. Later in the song as it stretches into a jam, the wah-wah guitar keeps the song from getting stale. However, afterwards, the remaining tracks go right back into the rap-over-funk formula. There is barely any tempo change, and the rhymes become more and more nonsensical.
The Silent Groove definitely is a live band. The instrumentation of funk with hip-hop lyrics is a refreshing combination, but it stops there. They only take the musical possibility so far. The record progresses nicely, mixing up rap and ska into a nice jam. For an independent release, the recording itself sounds fantastic. But the between-song banter, along with the occasional feedback whines holds back the flow of the live show. One can feel the electricity ebb and fade as the unchanging grooves and stale crowd/band interaction overpowers the last few remaining songs on the record. But for what it's worth, it's a strong debut making a bold statement as far as how one perceives a band and their first recording attempt.
Tom Fraher is a Contributing Writer. Contact him at DaFlavah@aol.com.