Review: Microtia - Distance is Oval
Label: Exigent Records (available through CDBaby.com)
Released: July 15, 2008
Microtia clearly loves the Mars Volta, but the Mars Volta they are not. Of course, that's not the worst knock in the world. Trying to play TMV's game and not fully succeeding is kind of like being a guitarist that isn't as good as Hendrix or a sax player that isn't as good as Coltrane. There's still plenty of room to be awfully good without reaching the pinnacle of your craft. The question isn't whether Microtia is as good as TMV so much as how they fill that area just below the very top of the prog genre.
Microtia have a clear love for all things prog. Their arrangements are complex and avoid simple verse-chorus-verse structures, yet they maintain some of the ferocity of hardcore. They don't exhibit the amazing technical skill that is a prog hallmark and that may be a strike against them among the more serious prog-heads, but for the rest of us, the music is more grounded and dabbling in grunge (check out "Organ Harvest" in particular) makes it more organic. They also aren't afraid of at least a few pop touches and that coupled with a desire to be bigger than just rock gives them moments that hint at Faith No More's genre-bending assault on the conventions of their day.
The biggest problem Microtia faces on Distance is Oval is simply keeping the intensity up, partly because they stretch too far and partly because the production doesn't afford them the crisp sound they need. Often enough though, they do find a fair balance between their chops and their hooks. The problem is not, as their name suggests, a problem with their ears, but a problem of getting their hearts in sync with some of the rather cool things their ears seem to want to hear.
If you're curious about my rating categories, read the description.