In Clover – Split EP

In Clover
Split EP

In my first draft of this review I used the word emo seven times. I’ve since become aware, with gentle nudge-nudges, of the need to avoid haphazardly slinging that term about. Although I’ve only used it in one other instance to unfairly pigeonhole a group, I resolved to add it to the list of things I won’t write when reviewing bands. I then set out to give this disc another really good listen, with headphones this time (a big act of contrition since I was just recently talking to a friend about how I’ll never do that with an album I don’t already know that I absolutely love; it’s too personal),…and not to ever use THAT word again.
This disc is a split-EP from two bands, Movies with Heroes and In Clover, which is a good idea in theory though I’m not really sure that it makes a lot of sense to package together songs from two bands with such similar styles and overall sound. If you put the disc on random, you wouldn’t necessarily know which one is going for your heartstrings. It has four songs from each group and more creative photography than most indie releases.
Nothing here is horribly over-blown, and the atmosphere created exudes a kind of a down-to-earthiness and sincerity. Movies with Heroes are from Lancaster, PA, and In Clover are from Waldorf, MD, which is a Southern Maryland minute away from my alma mater in a county that I was told once had the highest per capita ratio of bars to people. Both seem to take their music with adequate seriousness and invest appropriate amounts of heart, which I mention only because these qualities are really surprisingly rare in a lot of the music I review. They even thank the Lord, which, personally, I think is a little weird. I mean, Low lets their faith show in the beautiful, passionate, complicated music they create; there’s no need to name check God in your tri-fold. It all seems a little Promise Keepers-y to me, but I suppose it is what it is.
There’s a distinctive whiff of influence from a slew of radio-rock bands (Jimmy Eat World, The Offspring, Blink 182) with even less punk than some of those bands’ bleachy roots in Movies with Heroes harmonizing and big choruses. “Boy Scout Secrets,” with its chorus-y guitar arpeggios, even reveals their somewhat prog-ier leanings; their aspirations may be closer to Grace Under Pressure than London Calling. Salvation and redemption are recurring themes – and not subtly, either. “I believe there’s a trembling piece of light waiting just around each corner / And I believe that I might find mine tonight” (“Warmer”) and “Life is a miracle, you know / You can’t ignore it / In an eyelash, in a sunrise” (from “Boy Scout Secrets”) aren’t delivered with as much as hokum as they have being flatly written in a review, but they are frighteningly close to being featured on a Successories poster just below a shot of the Chesapeake Bay at sunset. In “Someday” they reveal their laudable goals: “I want it all but I want it the right way / I want to write the songs that make the whole world move.” Fair enough guys. You haven’t set the world in motion yet, but at least your hearts are in the right place.
In Clover shows a bit more vitality with their arrangements, though, like in the double time section of “Foolish Boy,” they may not know when enough is enough. They too show a similar leaning towards mining the inspirational in their lyrics. In “Audrey’s Song” they sing, “A smile straight from the heart shows peace is not so far / Blessed is the boy who walks the path he chose.” That’s all fine and good and it’s tough to knock their sentiment, but I just know that there’s a more creative way to put it. They get a lot of mileage out of their single guitar set-up: “Comical is my faith for the living” is a good example of their ability to sound spatial without being sparse. Both bands tend to suffer from some of the same shortcomings, namely a lack of distinctive instrumentation and a washed-out overall sound that sets the vocals back and forces the instruments to compete with each other for space. There isn’t really evidence of gross egotism or ridiculous self-absorption though; they deliver their songs earnestly and with heart and those are usually good things. They shoot for honesty and a connection, and I guess those are good thing as well. Still, in the end, they don’t show evidence with this release of being able to capture or really express in their music the sincere power that they’re trying to put across.