Did you ever wish Coldplay didn’t seem like a band comprised of neutered clowns bending to the will of Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow? The result might end up something like Crosstide, Portland’s dreamy rockers who haven’t forgotten how to rock the fuck out.
Once more, with balls
Did you ever wish Coldplay didn’t seem like a band comprised of neutered clowns bending to the will of Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow? Like, what would happen if they found a genie who could grant wishes and they asked for balls? What might happen if they continued writing romantic songs, but now with their newfound testes? The result might end up something like Crosstide, Portland’s dreamy rockers who haven’t forgotten how to rock the fuck out.
The band began in 1999, playing a ton of local shows and in 2002 released their first full-length album 17 Nautical Miles. A few years ago, the band somehow got into regular rotation on KNRK with the song “Talk Radio,” and have opened for choice touring bands such as Jimmy Eat World, Sparta, Rival Schools and Further Seems Forever.
On their 2005 album Life as a Spectator, Crosstide uses some ambient synthesizers and clickity-clicking drum machines in conjunction with raucous guitars, solidly stomping drums and the emotive, layered vocals of singer/guitarist Brett Vogel. The band shows a variety of styles and influences throughout the album.
“Wasted” is a ’80s rocker that hints at a reference to The Church’s song “Under the Milky Way,” mixed with maybe Duran Duran or The Cure. A minute in comes the big sing-along chorus “Wasted all the days of my life on dreams/but I don’t care anymore if the future burns.”
“There’s Hell” uses e-bowed guitar, a sideways drum beat and some gorgeous falsettos to float along for the first three and a half minutes, then in the brilliant final half minute of the song gives us not hell, but a heavenly, rousing chorus of vocals and confident, hard rocking guitars.
“Opposite Day” is an album highlight, beginning with a stark, roomy guitar line playing over some synth pads. Then the full band enters, the interlocking rhythm section reminiscent of Interpol. The chorus’ lyrics ring true about the state of religion in America, “The same ones that speak of truth will use you/Put your eyes to the sky/Just don’t look for a sign/This is no religion/This is an American Sunday morning.”
Elvis Costello has a famous quote about the fourth track on an album always being the best one, or at least one that you can count on to be good. This holds up on Life as a Spectator as well. The fourth track is called “Empathy,” and the verses are made up of a sparse guitar strum, while the bass and drums gradually build throughout the song. Lyrically, the song could be about politics or about love gone bad. As with many great songs, the point of the song changes depending on the listener’s perspective. “Have we come of age to this?/Is this all we’ll ever get?/Hidden truth and lies and blame/Said you bleed a poor man’s blood/It’s not yours mixed with the mud/You could never die like that/Grace to thee/Empathy/May you never sleep well again.”
“Choking” shows a U2 influence in the stalwart rhythm section, the chiming guitars and in the chorus lyrics, “I try not to hate the world/when everything’s so beautiful/and some of us would die to prove that love was right.”
Recently, the band has been featured on a couple of high profile local compilations, performing an Elliott Smith cover on To Elliott from Portland and an Elvis Costello cover on the new Bridging the Distance benefit album for transitional youth.
Crosstide has been working on songs for a new album, too. Look for a new song called “Underwater Ladies” to show up in the set list at this Friday’s show at The Wonder Ballroom. According to the band’s keyboardist, Bryan Free (who happens to be playing a solo set as an opener), “It is a giant collaborative effort. We’re all playing and singing on each other’s sets… I guarantee we’ll have some surprises. This show is meant to prove that Portland has as supportive an artistic community as Austin City Limits or any joke of a show on MTV. Portland has such a deep pocket full of shiny artists, it’s amazing and overlooked.” Also appearing are the visual artists Brent Wear and Marcus Pierce. Crosstide plays with Drew Grow, The Beauty, Soular, Kris Doty & Bryan Free on Friday, April 13 at The Wonder Ballroom. $6.