Transitions and Horns
By Aaron Binder
So many bands attempt at one point in their careers to make transitions from being a niche defining group to creating a bigger, more mainstream sound. Some have succeeded wildly like Queens of the Stone Age and Against Me! while others have reduced their reputations to the level of Wal-Mart specials.
Great Caesar is one of those bands going through a transition. With the release of their new EP, Scattered Air, last week their sound has taken a marked jump away from being influenced by ska to being a cathartic rock band that happens to have a sweet horn section. The Brooklyn band’s first EP (self-titled) exhibited a wonderful ska-like innocence paralleled with infectious dance beats. The problem with this EP is that it happens to be from 2007.
The band has released a string of singles over the years but have put themselves into an interesting situation, no real back catalogue but the ability to redefine their sound without alienating fans; in actuality a great position. With Scattered Air the band certainly has begun to explore more mainstream elements of music – less horn hooks, bigger sounding instruments and intricate writing patterns from one instrument to the next. There are a lot of great elements to this new EP that old fans will enjoy and the unintroduced should like.
The only downside is that it comes off as a transition EP. It is easy to tell the band is still attempting to define their sound – while there are many great positives to Scattered Air it drags on at points as though it can’t define whether it’s playing for the lounge crowd or rock fans. Their first EP had lofty highs and punctuated writing that left you humming where Scattered Air has too much muddling around.
Minor complaints aside, there truly are some great segments to the EP. The second song Fact is beautifully written and features wonderful interactions between each instrument while restraining itself from becoming a ska song and more of an intense, dancy ballad. Rearview is another interesting song. Taking elements from rock and adding the horns where necessary to create a Brasstronaut-esque sound by the end of the song. The driving beat combined with gang vocals keep this song toe-tappingly keen until it drops off 3/4ths of the way through – only to be built back up with all the aplomb of a kid that just scored his first kiss.
Not everything in this EP is perfect but the band has obviously put a lot of effort into redefining their sound. If they can keep up the momentum with regular releases and shows they certainly have the ability to carve a niche for themselves. Make sure you give them a listen at the links posted above, definitely worth your time.