“The Cosmic Drama” is a journey through the tangled, foggy mind of Brian Warren: a deep space, introspective, time-traveling indie rock fantasy. Warren, who handles vocals, guitar and lyrics, is Weatherbox and Weatherbox is Warren. Every note, every word, every melody oozes with his quirky charm.
After the release of Weatherbox’s debut full-length album, “American Art” in 2007, Warren soon became the lone member and writer both musically and lyrically of Weatherbox. Most of the core members decided to pursue their own musical endeavors or leave for college. From that point on, Weatherbox’s music became a place for Warren to let his self-searching philosophies take hold. What is left is an atmospheric epic of one man’s search through the cosmos to find meaning in it all.
First released on cassette tape
Before the music starts, there are a few things that need be said about the structure of this album that make it standout. It is interesting foremost in its nostalgic approach to record making, something that has essentially been lost since vinyl fizzled out. Warren originally released the first mastered copy of “The Cosmic Drama” back in July on cassette tape. (Yes, cassette tape. Ever heard of such a thing?) Then instead of releasing it on CD, Warren opted to release the albums digitally through iTunes on Sept. 8 and on vinyl Sept. 22.
The true beauty of vinyl is being able to organize albums using “Side A” and “Side B” to tell different stories or display different sounds. “The Cosmic Drama” uses this technique, for the most part separating “Side A” and “Side B” of the album with two distinct sounds. “Side A” is comprised mostly of acoustic tracks, while ‘Side B’ incorporates the entire band. And unlike “American Art,” the songs on the album don’t get mashed together. Each possesses its own distinct style and build.
The opening track, “That M.A.N.N.,” speaks and breathes life to the album’s title with its robotic, deep-space opening and atmospheric finish. The slow, creeping build in “King Friend (The Showing of the Instruments)” shows just how good of a songwriter Warren is both lyrically and musically. Slow acoustic strums lead into a gigantic swaying rocker, providing the first real glimpse of the raw power that Weatherbox fans have come to expect. “They’re Ready for Us to Come Home” finds Warren self-reflecting on the purpose of his own work, acoustically strumming as he repeats, “My art is not that good art.”
Still a few roadblocks on the album
The only real roadblocks on “Side A” could be the short filler tunes “This Space Intentionally Left Blank” and “…And You Will Know Me by the Trail of Dead.” But the shuddering guitar work on the pulsating “Mindthings to W.A.S.T.E.” and the whimsically airy acoustic riffs on “YouTube The Clouds (Anything That Flies)” make you realize the filler songs were actually the glue holding “Side A” together.
“Two Satchels of Light” kicks off “Side B” with Warren chanting, “Here I go / Where’d I go?” The song shows the kind of crisp riffs and pop-punk sensibilities found on the band’s debut album. The next track, “I Haven’t Kissed A Guy In Lightyears,” is one of the strongest tracks on the album, featuring both Weatherbox’s signature dueling guitar work and bizarre yet catchy lyrics.
The slow building “Ask My Flashlight” finds Warren at his most personal as he sings, “I swear to take care of what’s in front of me.” “Contactus, The Little Green Man,” is booming and bursting with a soaring chorus and equally impressive guitar work. Warren displays his airy sideswiping guitars and slamming vocals as he belts, “Now, not currently hating myself / Not currently living unwell / Not currently burning in Hell.”
“Don’t Say Nice Things” may feature some of the most straightforward lyrics on the album, but it doesn’t deter from the strong message and meaning behind them as Warren croons, “And you should not say nice things if you don’t mean them / And you should not say mean things at all.”
The final track, “No Hands (Anything That Flies)” secures “The Cosmic Drama” as Warren’s opus. It takes a whirling, colorful flight, capped off with Warren slowly strumming to the final words of the album, “No hands to hold on to of my family / They are all glass / No hands to hold on to of my family, in the desert.”
If you need a reason to check this album out it can simply be because it is a complete, well-executed sophomore release that is further above par than most indie rock bands out there. Few bands know or realize the importance of making full complete albums and not singles. Let’s just say Weatherbox got that memo, and perfected it.
Matt Linden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org