(As published in the Times of Acadiana ... )
By the time Eve 6 launched into “Promise,” its current single, at the House of Blues in New Orleans last month, it was clear that those of us who’d written the trio off two years ago as Hanson with bared teeth had underestimated its staying power. Members of the all-ages show were singing along to every word, yet neither the single nor the album would be commercially available for weeks.
How did the kids know the song inside out? Airplay? Maybe. The song has, after all, gone top-five on both Billboard’s modern-rock chart and Gavin’s alternative one, averaging nearly 1,500 spins a week. But Max Collins, the group’s frontman and lead singer, put his finger on a different reason when, before the applause had even died, he urged the SRO crowd to go home after the show and look “Promise” up on Napster.com. Or as Jon Siebels, the group’s guitarist, puts it, “Napster goooood! We’re definitely pro-Napster.”
Siebels, twenty-one, sees in the Napster controversy a reminder of the home-taping wars that raged during his ’80s childhood. “There are always going to be bootleggers,” he admits, “but, when it comes down to it, people want the whole package. They want the album, they want the CD that’s not going to skip after the third time they play it, and they don’t want to hear little glitches in between every song.
“Besides,” he adds, “record sales are way up from where they’ve been.”
One of those best-selling records is Horrorscope (RCA), the group’s just-released follow-up to its eponymous, million-selling 1998 debut. On paper the new album wouldn’t appear to abound in new thrills--not with the same band (Collins, Siebels, drummer Tony Fagenson), the same producer (Don Gilmore), and the same tattoos (well, Siebels says some of those are new) as last time. But once in the CD player Horrorscope clearly announces itself as a major upgrade.
Where the debut sounded tentative (the group cut it fresh out of high school), Horrorscope’s songs gleam like polished metal--a metal that if never actually heavy is also never precious, not even on “Here’s to the Night,” a gorgeous ballad with a string arrangement courtesy of the veteran string arranger--and father of Beck--David Campbell. Although Siebels describes the experience of attending the string-tracking session as “awesome,” he’s quick to deny that Eve 6 intends to exploit the ballad market any time soon. “There probably are more slow ones in us, but I can’t ever see us recording an entire record of songs like that. We like to rock, you know?”
Siebels’ guitar, a Guild Bluesbird, defines Horrorscope’s sound more than any other Eve 6 element, but that in itself isn’t necessarily significant: Producers like Gilmore, especially when assisted by mixers surnamed Lord-Alge, spin musical straw into gold and platinum all the time. What’s impressive about Siebel’s playing is that even on-stage he’s able to generate the same huge roar. If the cozy confines of the House of Blues hadn’t encouraged close inspection, one might’ve even suspected computer-generated sampler trickery to have been afoot.
One would, however, have been wrong. “I think the key,” Siebels explains, “is that I have a pre-amp, a power amp, and a TC Electronics effects unit, which makes it actual stereo, and then you put a little delay on there. As the only guitar player in the band, I kind of have to fake it a little bit, to make it seem like there’s two.”
No less impressive is Collins’s ability to enunciate his lyrics on-stage. As perhaps the most relentlessly alliterative, assonant, and internally rhyming lyricist currently not recording rap or covering Barenaked Ladies' “One Week,” he truly has mouthfuls to get out. “I spit and stutter stuff and clutter worries in my worried corner,” he sings in “Promise.” “Maladjusted just untrusted rusted sometimes brilliant busted thoughts.” And, as if bent on outdoing himself, he not only delivers the truly amazing “Your heinous higness broke her hymen hey man try to quit your crying” in “On the Roof Again,” but he does so at a speed that would get him pulled over in Krotz Springs if his tongue were a car with out-of-state plates.
And, speaking of running afoul of the law, upon its release Horrorscope officially became the 437,855th album to earn the parental-warning sticker since Tipper Gore thought it up fifteen years ago. “Yeah,” says Siebels. “You get a sticker for saying it twice or maybe three times now.”
For the record, Collins says “it” on Horrorscope at least five times. Siebels admits that to a certain segment of the Eve 6 audience such lagniappe is not without appeal. “Especially twelve-year-old boys,” he chuckles. “A twelve-year-old guy walks into a store and sees something that he’s not supposed to have--I mean, f$%&*#, it’s pretty much as good as his.”