From the halls of Fort Collinsí power pop producing Not
Lame records comes another shining example of the talent
that lies undiscovered by the masses. Cliff Hillis
is a student of meaningful pop music and thick, though uncluttered
arrangements. His lyrics are brilliant and his melodies shining
examples of the seemingly lost art form of pop music. Hillis
is obviously not afraid to challenge the listener with either
his use of ten-cent words or topics that may seem sensitive
to some people. But he is delicate with his dealings, both
musically and lyrically.
"Coming Out Alive" begins the album with a sharp
drum beat and guitars dense enough to cloud up the speakers.
Itís a hopeful rollicking song, the sort that is lacking in
a good bit of the worldís music collections. "Second
Dimension" continues with a very Semisonic sounding
guitar drag and insightful lyrics, which are delivered with
passion. You can make it out alive if you want to/have
you ever been away from your bedroom. "Grounded"
trades in the pounding drums and electric guitars for a more
acoustic feeling, with swirling organs and a more gentle air.
Hillis again demonstrates his penchant for lyrics with meaning
and poise, rather than the words that most songwriters throw
around. Jangling guitars and solid drums carry "Me And
You", a pleasant song both sonically and lyrically. "Before
And After" is softly wrought with acoustic guitars and
delicately floating strings, solidly supporting the meaningful
lyrics. Hear the sound of broken faces/crying in subtle
little ways/ways and means around a problem/who could heal
me on such a day? On "Sheila Said", Hillis brings
back out the driving guitars and pounding drums, and throws
in blaring horns for the chorus. This song is powerful and
would make anyone lay heavy on the throttle of their respective
"Medicine" is a kinder music, with some almost
country guitar licks carefully placed to enhance the arrangement.
But again, the ultimate strength of the song lies in its lyrics,
Fake a smile but all the while itís just a distant static
notion/certain words you never heard could have calmed the
frantic ocean/once again, medicine makes us whole. Words
are the focus of "Wake", a slowly lilting acoustic
piece backed with trembling organs and spacey theremin-like
soundings. The music is beautiful, and evokes a sense of peaceful
drifting, albeit on a sea of tortured memories. "When
You Feel" continues the slower musics and images of childhood
days intermixed with the structure of growing older and life
taking itís toll. Picture crooked hanging on the wall/letter
perfect meaning none at all/moments instinct is to run away/tell
the world what it has yet to say. Horns make their second
appearance on "All Of Your Sunshine", with a very
1960ís Chicago feel. I can almost imagine this song
being entitled "25 Or 6 To 4"Öor some nonsense.
A nice song, but reminiscent of things Iíd rather not remember.
"Never December" is a slower dirge-like song, questioning
the needs for loss and ending, and always with that hint of
madness that makes for truth. A very Lenny Kravitz
bridge offsets the rest of the song, and is a nice highlight.
"Nothing Matters More" is a quietly passionate song,
perfect for a final song on an excellent record. There are
interesting percussion sounds, but the real focus, as I think
Iíve stated, lies in the lyrical content. Pure emotion and
honesty can be found in these words.
The songs of Chris Hillis are more than captivating musically,
but the real strength lies in the lyrical content. Most of
the songs on this record seem to be here for a purpose, strangely
lacking in filler and lackluster disseminations. There is
enough depth to hold a listener musically, but the real essence
of the songs lies in the lyrics, which is really what music
is supposed to be about.
On my driving scale, where one makes me sleep and 10 makes
me get tickets every mile or so, this album comes in at a
solid 6. Definitely some movers, but Iíd rather actually pay
attention to these songs and digest what they have to say.
ó David DeVoe
- Coming Out Alive
- Second Dimension
- Me & You
- Before And After
- Sheila Said
- When you Feel
- All Of Your Sunshine
- Never December
- Nothing Matters More
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