“No ska, no punk, no metal, no dice” has been the rule for Orange County rock bands trying to make a large impact on the world. From Ann De Jarnett and Vinnie James in the late ‘80s to Water and Mark Davis in the mid-'90s, every talented local act taking a roll with traditional melodic guitar-rock has crapped out, and not for lack of merit. Maybe Exit will be the one to find a way off that highway to heartbreak.
This Westminster-based band sounds qualified to reach the same wide audience on which such earnest pop-rock brethren as Live, Toad the Wet Sprocket and the Verve Pipe have built successful careers.
Steve Carson, lead singer and primary songwriter, has a good, sturdy voice that can deliver the post-adolescent, world-weary blues without the off-putting stridence of Live or the exaggerated agony of Counting Crows. Yes, love-in-ashes and idealism-in-ruins are the running themes as Exit confronts a fallen world with aching earnestness, but muscular forward motion and scene-changing song arrangements that skillfully deploy layered guitars, vocal harmonies and rhythm-pushing tambourines steer the music away from potential sonic and emotional ruts.
Graceful melodies abound, especially on “Rosario,” the lamenting ballad that is the CD’s highlight. And any band deliberately savvy or blindly lucky enough to repeat the main verse hook of Neil Diamond’s “Shilo"--as Exit does on “Rail"--has pretty good pop sense.
In a typical modern-rock shortcoming, Exit stands pat with lyrics built on abstract fragments of thought instead of generating the verbal energy and element of surprise that can help power or color a song as surely as a surging beat or nifty guitar riff.
In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Beck lamented his generation’s inability to seize the creative possibilities of language in songwriting. But who needs to tell a story, paint a word-picture or breathe life-giving metaphor into a phrase when your friendly music video director can do it all for you?
My advice to any young rock lyricist would be to forget Michael Stipe and Adam Duritz and read “Songs of Innocence and Experience” by William Blake. After 200 years, it’s still the most rocking lyric poetry in the English language, bursting with driving rhythms and free-thinking attitudes.
(Available from Exit, P.O. Box 1337, Westminster, CA 92684-1337 or (714) 218-4726); https://www.smcnet.com/exit.
Ratings range from * (poor) to **** (excellent), with three stars denoting a solid recommendation.