The Standard – S/T

So I’ve spent the last few hours listening to The Standard’s self-titled release, and I simply can’t form an opinion on it to save my life. I’ve listened to the disc forward, backwards, upside-down and inside-out, but I’m just at a loss to explain this disc. The band name really says it all, as this 13 track disc really is “standard.”

While the general concept here is the gutar/bass/drum/vocals, The Standard’s sound fluctuates from track to track. For example, “Direct Drive” starts the disc off on a short, fast and urgent rock trip. However, the next track, “Spanglish,” is a much better developed piece of songwriting, creating a really cool vibe in under three minutes. The subtleties of the track really make it special, as the fuzz-sounding guitar lead, the organ fills, and the backing vocals add immeasurably to the mood. “Static” is a very up-tempo number that picks up at the end, with the lyrics wondering, “When did she bust out from all the neon lights? There’s too much to take in here for my mind.”

Around this point, things go astray. “Queen and Subject” is a decent enough song, but it really does feel like filler material. Nothing really stands out about the track, and it’s two minutes longer than any of the previous songs. “The Greatest Gift” is a sparsely beautiful acoustic guitar piece – unfortunately, at 1:18, there isn’t much there to appreciate. “Palm Sunday” takes a Pavement turn a few minutes into the track, but doesn’t really do much with it. The basic riff of “Expressway” is similar to Pearl Jam’s “Rearviewmirror,” although The Standard make the best of this track, leading into a nice guitar breakdown mid-track. The piano-based “Blue Light” is quite a listen, but again, the minute-and-a-half running time hardly allows much of a chance to really get into the song. “Baptiste” is another quick-paced rocker, while “Simplify” succeeds where “Blue Light” fails by actually breaking the three-minute mark and allowing some sort of attachment to a complete song structure. The track’s delicate piano and haunting vocals create a really atmospheric sound. “Medical Situation” comes off like a Lungfish b-side, while “One Hundred Twenty One” is another dreamy track, complete with echoing vocal effects and lulling keyboards. I must admit, that without trying to offend anyone, I can totally hear a track like this being used as a big production in a muppet movie. The ‘hidden track’ here is pretty much a toss-away, using a funk-ish bassline to hold down some assorted keyboard effects.

This release puzzles me, simply because I listened to it so many times, yet ended up having so little to say about it. I’m unsure of whether or not this is a good thing, but I can say that The Standard’s self-titled release does show some signs of potential. The problem is that what could have been the two best points of the album are actually just minute-and-a-half blips that could be so much better if they’d have been fully developed. Still, there really isn’t anything “wrong” with this release, per se. However, I’ll bet The Standard’s next release is light years ahead of this one.