Volume 13, Issue 12 ~ March 24 - 30, 2005
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Music Scene
photo courtesy of Kriminal Records
Gold Mind Squad fuses electrical effects, tricky forms and bridge changes that are uncommon to their hard-rock genre.

The Plague of Popularity: The Gold Mind Squad Revisited
You’ll hear a level of poise that reveals a group standing on their musical wherewithal rather than wobbling to prove themselves.
Reviewed By Matthew Pugh

In the rock and roll business, popularity breeds high expectations. If you’re only as good as your last album, then you’re continuously striving to top yourself.

Gold Mind Squad, the Annapolis-area band that exploded in 2003 with their work Survival of the Richest, has succeeded in outdoing themselves with their latest disc, The Plague of Popularity.

This 10-track package — hitting the streets on March 29 — reflects the growth and musical maturation of a band determined to be noticed for their musical abilities and not just for their image.

In 2003, popularity quickly overtook Gold Mind Squad, known as GMS. Guitarist Brent Allen, guitarist Evan Via, singer David Benischek, bassist ‘Brando’ and drummer ‘Roobyn’ became local stars when their song “Butterface” hit regional airwaves.

The song was the most requested tune on DC 101’s program, Local Lix. Live 105.7 spun “Butterface” daily; it became a regular on 98 Rock; Baltimore Raven’s owner Art Modell put it on the 2003-2004 play list at the team’s M&T Bank Stadium; and Billboard Magazine featured it on their 2003 Hard Music compilation.

Last year, GMS were finalists in DC101’s Last Band Standing contest. They appeared on one leg of the Alabama band Trust Company’s East Coast tour, and are featured on 98 Rock’s “Noise in the Basement” compilation. Despite two years of ballyhoo surrounding Survival of the Richest, it was not a good album. It lacked both sophistication and exploration, and it resonated with hurriedness. GMS seemed like a band more concerned with their front than with making music.

Music is at the front of The Plague of Popularity, however. You can hear the change in GMS on the first track where a full, rich combination of syncopated guitars shows instrument understanding and confidence.

GMS’ tightened playing shows not only craft improvement but also push by producer Steve Wright to test the band’s mettle. Wright, of Wright Way studios in Baltimore, helps GMS meld a strategic and thoughtful sound.

Benischek reveals his melodic capabilities and range through tracks like “Close My Eyes” and “This is Your Hope.” Unlike GMS creations of old, the new album has a Benischek edginess that is believable and not flimsy.

There’s progress in the tone of GMS’ vocals, and they’ve raised the bar on complexity, harmonizing and singing rounds in many of their songs. GMS proves that they are unafraid of their voices by keeping the screaming to a few befitting moments.

In their new songs, GMS fuses electrical effects, tricky forms and bridge changes that are uncommon to their hard-rock genre. This gives The Plague wholeness that rises above a collection of tunes.

Allen, Brando and Via work together to pour a robust and chunky guitar mixture over tracks like “Bitter Farewell” and “Someday.” My favorite is “One and Only,” a dynamic change from the album’s intensity. It hearkens back to the 1980s when hair metal bands wrote big power ballads. Not that GMS is a hair metal band, but it’s good to know that someone there appreciates old Guns and Roses, Motley Crue et al.

The guitar lead on “One and Only” is soulful, sounding unscripted and personal. There’s a strong backing vocal presence, a warm breakdown and a nice resolve. This could be another hit for GMS.

Hitting his drums well throughout the album, Roobyn supports a vicious tension-and-release approach that the band uses to paint deep emotion and color into “Bitter Farewell,” the title track and the entire CD.

Over all, The Plague of Popularity has a level of poise that reveals a group standing on their musical wherewithal rather than wobbling to prove themselves. Listeners notice, too.

GMS has been the most requested mid-Atlantic band on 106.9 the X for the last two months, and their new song “Flying South Alone,” was added to 96 Rock’s rotation. That’s 95.9FM in Ocean City, Maryland and Delaware.

You can catch GMS at the Knights of Pythias on April 16 in Edgewater, or purchase their new album at local record stores in a week.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.