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October 10th, 2007 Paige Richmond | Music Stories
 

THE REVISIONS, Revised Observations (Dirtnap)

Debut acoustic album from former punk rockers needs, well, revising.

     
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[ACOUSTIC PUNK] Listen to the Revisions’ first full-length album a few times through and you’ll start asking yourself where you heard this band before. You might wonder, “Have I seen this fast-paced acoustic duo play live once, maybe at a reading of punk rocker/author Justin Maurer’s Don’t Take Your Life: True Stories? Don’t I have On the Lam, the first EP from Husayn Sayer and Douglas Burns (also available on 7-inch vinyl), buried under a stack of discs somewhere?”

Either of those scenarios is possible, but chances are you’ve heard Burns sing in the now-defunct ’70s-style punk band the Observers and Sayer play bass in pop-punk outfit Clorox Girls—which also numbers Maurer (who appears on the album, along with several other guests). While Revised Observations is as new to you as anyone else, it sounds unshakably familiar. The band itself is self-referential: The Revisions formed last year when Burns and Sayer started playing acoustic versions of Observers and (fellow local punk band) Speds songs live.

Some tracks are easier to place than others. “Lead Pill,” for example, is a re-working of an Observers tune. But other tracks draw from more unpredictable sources: On “Out of Reach,” Sayer’s vocals channel late ’90s Ramones rip-off bands like the Queers or Screeching Weasel, while the opening riff in “Breathe Again” sounds a little like Jimi Hendrix’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” The album (recorded at Portland’s now-defunct Studio 13) also lacks layering. Take “Useless Information,” where the bass fluctuates between overpowering and being overpowered by the guitars and drums, leaving all three without a consistent place.

The one instrumental success of Revised Observations is the string section: On “Empty House,” when a plucked guitar and intimate vocals complement Chad Marks-Fife’s sorrowful violin, the Revisions finally get it right. If only every track sounded that honest, these literal revisions could stop relying on what came before and stand on their own.


SEE IT. The Revisions celebrate the release of Revised Observations Friday, Oct. 12, with Austin Lucas, Deadpan Pariah and the Hermans at Slabtown. 9 pm. $6. 21+. The Revisions also play Friday, Oct. 12, with Austin Lucas at Green Noise Records. 7 pm. Free. All ages.
 
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