Photo by Jayne Holyoke

Often times when an improvisational rock band enters the studio they attempt to somehow capture the sound and energy of their live show. Nine times out of ten they fail and the songs naturally become more watered down and, well, a lot shorter. This certainly is not the case with Birth of Confusion, the debut album from Atlantic Canada's own Grand Theft Bus. Not only does the disc clock in at over 75 minutes in length but the quartet does something that many "jambands" have not done in the past: they embrace both experimentation and recording technology without veering too far astray from the songs themselves. The results make for a highly rewarding collection of fully realized compositions that tend to reveal themselves with each listen.

The album opens with the muted snare drum of "Don't Treat Me Like That," one of the more linear and accessible tracks on the disc. However, with its subtle electronics and clever lyrics it is anything but conventional and it could easily appeal to a wide array of music fans. The spacious "Insane Man's Mind" is next as the album's continuing concept of confusion and disorientation is touched upon for the first time. The third track, "Low," features the synchronized dual guitar work of Tim Walker and Dennis Goodwin and, with the help of Jimmy Swift Band keyboardist Aaron Collier, the two compliment each other perfectly, weaving together to create a wall of beautiful textures and strong melodies. "Theory" then provides a break in the thread of confusion with the line "this theory covers everything" as the Bus leave you with the impression that they understand exactly what they are trying to do - both musically and lyrically.

By the time you hit the midway point of the album you begin to experience the pounding energy that GTB has become know for while touring constantly across Eastern Canada. "Street Sleeper," the band's most epic improvisational platform, loses none of its euphoric value as drummer Bob Deveau and bassist Graeme Walker provide a heavy drum 'n bass bottom that is almost trance-like in its dance floor appeal. "Ol'Guiseppe" maintains this torrid pace before segueing perfectly into "Bones" - the last song on the disc that really gives the listener a chance to catch their breath. From here the music becomes even more diversified and difficult to put into words. "Never Can Tell" still manages to feature the band's shifting tempos and unique chord changes but could easily make mainstream radio much more interesting. "Weight of Circumstance" is dark, spacey funk where rapidly shifting melodies, rhythms, and textures push the music forward and take the listener on an almost mind-altering journey.

The album finally comes to a climax with "Tank Top" - a 14-minute instrumental piece that perfectly showcases what this band has to offer in a live setting. Also, more than any other selection on the album, this may be the track that most accurately reveals the musical influences behind Grand Theft Bus as the song sounds closer to the post-rock of Tortoise than any of the better-known jambands. In fact, it is hard to compare Grand Theft Bus and Birth of Confusion to any band - especially a particular jamband. This is precisely what makes this work of art so easy to both praise and recommend as it is much more than a simple document of a great live band it is original, progressive music and a great debut album.

Neil Brewer
JamBase | Eastern Canada
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[Published on: 12/4/02]

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