Simon Says formed several years ago when a couple of sophomores at a Sacramento high school met at a party and found that they had like musical interests. The band quickly progressed from playing the local club circuit to landing a major label deal. It was this rapid success that gave the band’s 1999 debut release, Jump Start, such a positive and optimistic feel and sound. However, the fairy tale is over for this self-described “heavy rock band.” Their recent experiences have fueled them like gasoline on fire, and it has provided them with the anger and power to write the explosive, hard-hitting album they always wanted to write. The album is called Shut Your Breath, and it will be released this summer on Hollywood Records.
For the new album, the band has kept Mark Needham (Cake) on production, but have enlisted the services of Ben Grosse (Filter, (hed)p.e.) on the mixing board. Add to this the fact that they have been touring with the likes of The Henry Rollins Band, Filter, and Limp Bizkit, and it is no wonder that their sound intensity has increased ten-fold. The band’s subject matter clearly exposes their newfound anger and disgust of the greed, gluttony, and phoniness of the world. The good news is that they are able to whip their rage into an album of “hyperactive, aggro-melodic” music that knocks the wind out of you, but keeps you begging for more.
The first tune on the disc, “Hey You,” violently welcomes the listener into Simon Says’ crazy world. It is a song about the temptations and unhealthy enticements that seduce us all. Simon Says proudly claim to have steered away from the allure of rock n’ roll excesses, and the sound in frontman Matt Franks‘ turbulent voice makes me believe them. “Syphon” is another crushing, in-your-face tune that features an angry response to a person that has taken advantage of the band and “syphoned” all that should be theirs. Finally, Franks has the courage to furiously declare, “It’s my fucking turn!”
The song “Segue,” which is named after the musical term that means to proceed to the next part without a pause, features guitars that flawlessly progress from beautiful and elegant to tormenting and vicious. One of my favorite songs on this CD is “Limousines & Penthouse Suites,” which is a furious strike at the boy bands and teenage girls that dominate the pop charts. It features a catchy chorus and awesome drums and percussion, courtesy of Mike Johnston.
“Canvas” is a frantic, yet harmonious tune that deals with starting over after losing trust in a friend. Backed by guitarist Zac Diebels‘ punishing riffs, Franks blares, “How could you break my trust?/ I try to wash away the memories.” “Silk Moth” is yet another song that Simon Says is about “double-faced” people with “plastic smiles.” These are subject matters that we could all relate to, and as I listened, I could feel their anger crawl through my skin.
Simon Says have been through a lot of experiences since their days of careless high-school partying. And it is with this fierce album that they have finally come of age.