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Whatever's Got You Down
Hopeless Records

Setting up base in Berkeley, California, the modern rock quintet Samiam have released their seventh studio album Whatever's Got You Down, produced by Chris Moore (TV On The Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs). The music has a SoCal vibe along soft punk sprints and modern rock influences. In many ways, the album is far from sounding like their Atlantic Records debut release Clumsy back in 1994 which had a power punk-pop sound reflective of Green Day's Dookie. Samiam isn't the same band they were back in 1994. They have experienced many incarnations over the years, but this new amalgamation shows solidarity.

Samiam began in the Bay Area in 1988 and presently only two of the original members still remain - lead vocalist Jason Beebout and guitarist Sergie Loobkoff. For the proceeding twelve years, Beebout and Loobkoff went through a hand full of drummers and bassists before pulling everything together in 2000 with Jeremy Bergo on bass, Johnny Cruz on drums and Sean Kennerly on rhythm guitar. Samiam's latest incarnation has the 5-piece rolling out rock tunes with melodic links and light punk rhythmic motions. Lead vocalist Jason Beebout's pipes have a Roger Daltrey echo on many of the tracks, conveying a husky tonality and deep throated pitches. Other times his vocals reach soaring lengths and softer keys like on the power pop/rock sprockets for "Come Home" and "Lullaby" where he displays a Marc Roberge (of O.A.R.) fluidity. There a retro-rock feel in the instrumentation and a modern rock crank in the movements on "Get It Right" and "Holiday Parade" which are reflective of Built To Spill.

However, the lyrical content has an emo-esque core and grunge-rock influences with phrases that look inward at one's private thoughts as Beebout chimes, "She left her charm bracelet by the bed/ I kept it, though I don't know what it meant/ Something to hold memories of my own/ An absent-minded offering," taken from the song "Anything." There is a garage rock essence and SoCal motion in the sequences balanced by a melodic-pop polish so the songs have ragged edges while hailing a consonance that allows them to have a wisp of elegance. The chord changes on "When We're Together" and "Believer" manage dynamic moves with fluid grace and guitar atmospherics similar to Muse. Samiam purveys a country western feel on the ditty "Bide My Time," tacked on the end of the album which introduces a new element that breaks away from the pop/rock sediment of the previous tracks. It could be a reflection of what is up next for Samiam or something just done for fun.

Samiam have found themselves in a very unique position. They are in demand for tours but they still have not reached the commercial success of their peers. They are like the bridesmaid who feels like she will never be a bride, always the opening act but never the headliner. The band says that they just did this record for fun, not for record sales or to pander to radio, but then how many couples start out dating just for fun and end up happily married? Samiam show solidarity in their music on Whatever's Got You Down and no matter what result they want, it's always a happy result when one is truly settled.

-Susan Frances

Track listing:
1. When We're Together
2. Take Care
3. Get It Right
4. Do You Want To Be Loved
5. Storm Clouds
6. Anything
7. Come Home
8. Are You Alright
9. Lullaby
10. Believer
11. Holiday Parade
12. Bide My Time

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