Kansas City trio Not A Planet
have the potential to be that next band to step to the next level. Much like the ACBs or Cowboy Indian Bear, the group has mastered the art of taking familiar sounds and recontexualizing them into something fresh and exciting. Unfortunately, Not A Planet has yet to direct their sound into something consistent.
While, yes, a band needs to diversify and do more than perform the same song repeatedly over the course of 10-12 tracks, some sort of thematic or tonal through-line helps. While the gentleman of Not A Planet are indisputably talented musicians, one gets hesitant applying the same compliment to the band as a whole.
To whit: while the first four songs are bouncy, buoyant, danceably-funky (yet not outright funk-rock) rock 'n' roll, The Few, The Proud, The Strange
undergoes a transition from undeniable pop hooks to something that's uncertain as to what it is. "Black Dress," the album's fifth cut, is taken from another piece of cloth than the preceding four tracks. It's as if those were an EP, and then the band just started adding in songs as they were recorded, regardless of thematic or sonic cohesion.
"Black Dress" carries a bit of that lightweight (yet undeniably catchy) Maroon 5 vibe of the first four songs and pairs it with the stomp and crunch of the White Stripes. It works, but coming as it does after those tracks, and then continuing on down that blues rock path, The Few, The Proud, The Strange
goes from being a tightly-bound collection of songs into an unfocused, ambling listen.
As the album went on, I kept checking some of the looser numbers on my music player to see how much longer some of the songs had left. That's a terrible sign for any album. My notes for "Invisible Man" simply read "TIGHTEN THESE SUCKERS UP, PLEASE." The repeated refrain of "All around/ The ground is in the air" for the last minute of the song just drags on too long. The most notable demonstration of Not A Planet's inability to pick a consistent tone comes on the last two tracks.
If the first four songs on The Few, The Proud, The Strange
are a perfectly-sequenced EP, the last two seem like a promo cassingle -- neither song has anything in common with that which it's paired, and by being put together, each suffers in comparison to the other. You don't title your second-to-last song as "The End," and then pair that introspective come-down / chill-out track with an additional
cut like "I've Got A Secret." A falsetto funk number, with orchestral stabs right out of a James Bond theme? After that?
No. Add in the indie rock take on pop-country that is "My Train Is Coming," and the album's just two-thirds confusing mess. Maybe had the songs been better-sequenced, with the danceable rock gradually switching to the bluesier stompers or vice versa, rather than scattered willy-nilly, you'd end up with a better album. As it is, The Few, The Proud, The Strange
is a good collection of songs, but an unfortunate album.
Not A Planet plays Lawrence on Tuesday, May 21, opening for Panda Circus' farewell show at the Bottleneck. You can find out more about the band and stream the album at their website