Wednesday, August 9, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 166 

Cougar Comics Online
The Game Boy


About the Cougar

With a little luck, Splender could be around for a long time 


Halfway Down the Sky
Available Now
C2/Columbia Records


By Ed De La Garza
Daily Cougar Staff

What sets bands apart from each other these days? Is it the ability to be lumped together with other alterna-pop bands to the point of being confused with the more popular ones?

"Alternative rock" is a misnomer. An alternative to what? For all the moaning rock bands do about the teeny-bopper sensation, the same level of overly hyped saturation exists in the rock circuit -- only this time, Justin Timberlake plays jangly guitar chords.

Let's see, there's matchbox twenty, Third Eye Blind (whose "Ten Days Late" song is just plain stupid), Stir, Vertical Horizon, 3 Doors Down and Nine Days. All of their songs are easily interchangeable -- which is sad with 3EB, considering its debut showed a lot of promise.

You can only hope a band like Splender is able to rise above the group. Having played together for 10 years, it has indeed paid its dues. That experience shows through on its debut Halfway Down the Sky.

Gene Kirkland/Columbia Records

Alt rock band Splender possesses an intoxicating musical style that could help it outlast the rest of the bands in its genre.

The New York City-based band roars through its 13 tracks, rarely letting up. The first single, "Yeah, Whatever," is quite possibly one of the greatest break-up songs ever written, striking the right balance between bitterness and regret. Singer/songwriter Waymon Boone displays a great gift for not overstating obvious emotions with the chorus, "We don't have to stay friends, let's pretend to be enemies."

"Monotone," an ode to lovers' spats, keeps with the angry-songwriting-as-catharsis theme, and "Supernatural," a song about not being able to discern between reality and dreams, is accompanied by great arrangement and production.

Some of the credit for Halfway's success has to go to producer Todd Rundgren, who Boone said helped keep the band focused.

"Working with Todd brought a clarity to the songs and production," Boone said. "He wouldn't let us (mess) around too much or stray too far from the path."

The new single, "I Think God Can Explain," may have jangly guitars, but it's a guilty pleasure. It gets you humming and singing along to a song about a stalker rationalizing his actions with the infectious line, "I believe I'm the same, I get carried away." The video has been getting plenty of attention from VH1.

The hard-rock edge of "Spin" gives the song a Soundgarden-lite feel. While the track may be about suffering, Jonathan Svec's guitar work, James Cruz' bass lines and Marc Slutsky's beats will leave you not caring about the lyrics. It's one of those perfect driving songs, due in part to its driving rhythm.

"Irresponsible" and "London" show that the band owes a lot to The Beatles. The chorus of "Irresponsible" builds to a bridge that sounds eerily like "I Am The Walrus." And "London," about getting to live out your dreams but not being satisfied, borrows heavily from the ending loop of "A Day in the Life." They're pretty good as tributes, though.

For all its success, there are a couple of miscues. "Cigarette" never takes off, and "Wallflower," while possessing a great melody, gets lost with lyrics reminiscent of an Afternoon Special. It's a little heavy on the "woe is me" sentiment. But they're not enough to weigh the album down.

Boone is no stranger to the music business. As a child, he traveled with his mother, who sang in the regional club circuit. Growing up on the road and building his experiences may have helped hone his songwriting skills. But not being signed by a major label and getting hit with "overnight success" status did a world of good for the band.

Splender displays maturity many of its contemporaries lack. Boone knows how to write smart, aggressive rock that's still accessible.

Halfway Down the Sky proves one thing: Once in a while, even the worst eras in music are capable of producing lasting acts. With luck, Splender won't disappear or get lost in the clutter.

Hear Splender for yourself Thursday when the band plays Numbers, 300 Westheimer, with Stroke 9 and SR71. Tickets are available at the door or through TicketMaster, (713) 629-3700.

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