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Music Review: Idiot Pilot – Wolves

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How can you go wrong with a band called Idiot Pilot-at least for exposure’s sake? And that’s just what this band has been getting over the last year or two. A song in the Transformers movie, coupled with a slot on the upcoming Taste of Chaos tour (headlined by Avenged Sevenfold) is bringing the Washington State due of Michael Harris and Daniel Anderson. Though both share instrument and programming duties, they are joined by Coheed and Cambria drummer Chris Pennie and former Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker to round out the recording.

Idiot Pilot has frequently been compared to Radiohead. On their latest CD — Wolves —there is a similarity in music, specifically in the approach to structure and melodic sense.  But the real clincher is Michael Harris’ vocals, eerily reminiscent of Thomas Yorke (although Harris does break into a Children-of-Bodom-like growl on occasion). Riding the edge between rock, alt, and electronica, the band slips easily back and forth between the styles, cranking down on the guitars when necessary and restraining everything, including vocals, on others. Some songs even have a wisp of Britpop in them.

A melancholy lyrical theme pervades the songs, dressed up by imaginative visceral imagery, like the song “Cruel World Enterprise” (Came in through an open window/through a small mistake/glanced over at your sleeping baby/we can hardly wait).

The final track, “Recurring Dream,” is a brooding, melodic drawl, clocking in at just under seven minutes. The evocative lyrics draw the listener into a shimmering mass of placid music as Harris asks, “What dreams do you have for me?”

There is a one major flaw that prevents Wolves from really taking off. Sonically, this collection is a mess. The songs are overproduced with a serious lack of fidelity. There is a cramming together of the electronics, instruments, and vocals that make it at times impossible to parse out the individual instruments and melodies. The CD is one wall of sound, but unlike Phil Spector, this one doesn’t add to the music, it subtracts.

That being said, this is in no way indicative of Idiot Pilot alone. It’s a pervasive problem in modern music. You would think with all this technology we would be listening to songs of the utmost sonic caliber. Rather, most new music, especially alternative and harder-edged rock, has all amplifiers turned to 11. It’s both distracting and infuriating.

I was especially aggravated because I think there is a lot of interesting elements in Idiot Pilot’s music, notwithstanding the fact that they are only a duo. The marriage of electronics and real instruments is a concept that falls flat more times than not, but there is a fresh approach here that begs to be heard.

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