Eclectic prog rock troupe Tin Scribble employs a certain level of gloomy theatrics in their funky prog rock collage. Incorporating histrionic vocals, dark riffs, and subtly political lyrics into a melting pot of odd time signatures and dynamic shifts, their sophomore LP, Unlive from a Dead City, is mostly engaging if a bit repetitive and generic as well. Regardless, it’s hard to argue that there isn’t respectable confidence in their vision.
Formed in Detroit by guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Michael Allan Moore (formerly of House of Usher), the quartet now includes guitarist Todd Richardson, bassist Danielle Collen, and drummer Ryan Looney. They describe themselves as “a band that will make you feel that you are on the influence of a serious psychedelic drug with covering important topics about today’s evil society, pollution, sex, drugs, flowers, politics and many more.” Their 2005 debut, Children of Saturn, received mostly positive reviews, and overall, Tin Scribble has steadily building a reputation for its avant-garde take on the genre. With Unlive from a Dead City, the band channels varied influences into a collection of dismal ballads and [almost] diverse compositions.
“Schizophonia” is a brief instrumental consisting of melancholic piano chords and ethereal sounds. As an introduction, it effectively sets the mood for the rest of the album. “Abandon” bursts out with the rhythmic finesse of Rush and early Genesis. Moore’s voice proves to be an acquired taste; it carries the shakiness of Geddy Lee, the quirky pitch of Geoff Tate, and the foreboding tone of Peter Steele. Musically, the track moves beyond its grunge foundation to incorporate elegant synths and intricate arrangements.
After the charming guitar interlude “Corinna,” Tin Scribble impress with complex tracks like “Invisible Sun,” “Breakable,” and “For a While” (which, at about ten minutes in duration, is an epic closer). The band also reveals its other side with the guitar/piano warmth of “Wake (acoustic)” and the Spanish folk flair of instrumental “Guitaristic at Ease.” Full of grace, sophistication, and striking musicianship, this track is easily the best on Unlive from a Dead City.
While Tin Scribble does integrate many styles and sounds into its music (including great acoustic guitar arpeggios), there is a certain sense of sameness with most of the songs. This is mostly due to Moore’s uninspired songwriting and singing. Also, the repetition of familiar timbres gets old quickly. Tin Scribble would definitely benefit from a new vocalist and an increased effort for better songs (otherwise, they might as well become an instrumental group).
Unlive from a Dead City is a mixed bag. More often than not, the music is elevated beyond being just standard gloom rock due to its synthesized innovations and tricky segments. However, Moore’s voice can be irritating, and the lack of any memorable melodies results in some distracting mediocrity. If Tin Scribble begins to highlight its strengths and restrain its weaknesses, it may live up to its full potential some day.