I’m going to start off by saying CJ Ramone’s The Holy Spell… (Fat Wreck Chords) is not a bad album. In fact, The Holy Spell… is a collection of really good songs – songs that would make an excellent batch of 7”s or a few EPs, as opposed to a full album. It’s an album that I don’t mind having on my iPod – when it is on random – but don’t particularly desire to listen to in one go beyond the times I did to write this review. So what’s my point? I am very conflicted about this as a singular piece of music, even though I quite like the individual parts when taken one to two songs at a time.
The thing is, for an album to really work, the songs have to have some variations in melody, harmony, speed, and song style. This one does not. Every song sounds pretty much the same, and as I was listening to it, I found myself becoming more of a passive listener than an active one, checking to see if I was back to the beginning of the album again, as opposed to hearing a new song that appears later on in it. Again, none of the songs are bad. They just don’t particularly stand out from one another in any appreciable way, with the two exceptions, “One High One Low” and “Rock On”.
“One High One Low”, the opening song, is pretty driving – especially for CJ Ramone – and sets up an album with a lot of promise. The last song, “Rock On” slows things down for a bit and is actually a welcome change of pace when listening to The Holy Spell… straight through. I also really like “Postcard from Heaven” which I think would have been an amazing single on its own and is the best song on the album, hands down.
Part of what makes the album blend together, though, is CJ’s voice. I feel like most people like it or don’t, and I do like it just fine, but he tends to sing every song in the same way – never venturing out of his niche or comfort zone and expanding his vocal capabilities to show us something different. This just contributes to the sameness and familiarity of the songs, probably more than the tempo and music, even. I also really crave more backing vocals and harmonies – some of the songs are all but screaming for them, and sound sparse as a result.
I realize this is a somewhat strange review, but as I said, I am conflicted about this album. I wish it was released in pieces, like I said earlier, perhaps as EPs or singles – all of which would get higher marks because they would be short bursts of music and not an album that seems to go on a bit too long, especially for the lack of diversity in the sound and style of the songs.