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Music Review: Radio Fallout – Vox E Tenebris

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Vox E Tenebris is the first full length album from Austin-based rockers Radio Fallout. And although the title may come off as a little academic, the music is straight-ahead rock and roll, with catchy songs that have a big sound. The band, a trio formed in 2008, features songwriter/guitarist Caleb Scates on lead vocals. Dan Walker plays bass, the drums are handled by Jonathan Palmer, and both join in on backing vocals. While rock bands may not exactly be in short supply in a city like Austin, there is always room for new voices with talent and originality. If “A Voice from the Dark” (courtesy of Google translation) is any indication, Radio Fallout is a “vox” ready to shine some light.

In an interview with Vents Magazine, Scates says their “goal is just to write something you can listen to and sing along with. If we can get a song stuck in your head then we feel like we did our job.” If that’s what the band is after, they’ve nailed it. The nine tunes on the CD are as infectious a lot as you’re likely to come across. Infectious, however, doesn’t necessarily mean happy.

As another interviewer in Feedback Fury pointed out in a number of his questions to band spokesman Scates, if you look at the songwriter’s lyrics, they are often quite dark. Indeed dark enough to suggest real depression. The voice from the dark seems as often as not to dress what seems to be a bleak message in shiny clothes.

Scates says he looks at his music as therapeutic. “I think I get a lot of it [depression] out in songwriting … where the art is kind of an outlet. … We talked earlier how this is not the ideal time to be coming up as a musician. I think the realization of that and the economic times we live in and the time the music industry is in, there are a lot of bad feelings that go along with it, so I think that’s where a lot of that comes from.”

Not a bad argument, if you ask me. Music, after all, hath charms, as another poet once said. As the second song on the album, “Lux E Tenebris,” suggests: “These words/Though absurd just might save a life.” It is perhaps not the words themselves that are absurd. It is the world that is absurd. Absurdity, in art, is often in the relationship between form and content—misery that sometimes sounds happy, but always sounds catchy. Somehow, the music makes the misery palatable. “Lux E Tenebris,” itself couldn’t be a better example.

Just listen to songs like “Wishing Well,” an enchanting melody with some less than enchanting lyrics, or the rocking opening song, “I Want to Be Alright.” It’s easy to lose yourself in the music and lose the sense of the verse. “Falling In” and “Hour of Darkness” are impressive performances that show just what the Radio Fallout is capable of. With a little luck and continued sweat, Vox E Tenebris will just be the beginning for the band.

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About Jack Goodstein

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