Your browser does not support our new site design, so some things might not display or function properly.
We suggest upgrading to Google Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer 9+ for the optimal experience.

Vocal Chaos

Taste the Chaos: 2006 EP (2006)

3.0

Reviews By TeKay, Tom Czerwinski, and Robert Dietz

November 4, 2007

Tuning / Blend 3.7
Energy / Intensity 3.0
Innovation / Creativity 2.0
Soloists 2.7
Sound / Production 2.3
Repeat Listenability 2.3
Tracks
1 Accidentally in Love 2.7
2 Alison 2.7
3 Good Things 3.0
4 I Want You Back 2.7
5 If You Could Only See 2.7

Recorded 2005 – 2006
Total time: 17:04, 5 songs


3
Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 2
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 Accidentally in Love 3
2 Alison 3
3 Good Things 3
4 I Want You Back 2
5 If You Could Only See 3

I can no longer be an Alanis Morissette fan. Seriously. I fought it for several years now, but she totally screwed me up. I no longer understand what it means to be ironic. Vocal Chaos' new recording, Taste the Chaos: 2006 EP has proven this deficiency in me.

The band name Vocal Chaos brings to mind a group that has a hard-edged, power-rock sound and approach to music. Even the band's website would lead me to believe this is true: "CHAOS actually stands for: Chords Harmony And Outrageous Sound." It was that "outrageous sound" that I was really looking forward to from the Chicago-based professional group. Looking at the track list, skepticism set in. Are they really going to be able to rock out on Alison?

And this would be the point where the irony should set in. The group would know that they are more smooth rock/adult contemporary-oriented, but have an air of the rockstar about them. What the listener gets is a cappella pop "standards" delivered in an earnest and affable manner — very early-to-mid-'90s collegiate sounding. Good, but nowhere near chaotic.

No, "pleasing" is a better term. The arrangements are pleasingly simple, the production pleasingly natural, the soloists are pleasing to the ear. It's a CD that you'd want to listen to when you are set to have a pleasant Sunday afternoon reading the newspaper (people still do that, don't they?).

But I guess Vocal Pleasantries doesn't cut it as a band name, huh?


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 2
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 2
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Accidentally in Love 3
2 Alison 3
3 Good Things 4
4 I Want You Back 4
5 If You Could Only See 3

When you sit down at your favorite restaurant, you probably don't ask for a heaping bowl of chaos. If Vocal Chaos' debut Taste the Chaos is any indication, it might be a lot like ordering mac ‘n' cheese: an old standby that will fill your stomach but not send you over the top.

The eight men of Vocal Chaos have talent that shows in a polished, professional final product. Musically, the album is solid. Parts are in-tune and blended. Singing is bubbly and peppy. Soloists aren't tremendous, but aren't bad either. Vocal Chaos could improve its tepid and bland percussion. Better percussion could add another level of energy to the next release. Chaos owes a lot to its arrangements, which are lively and appropriate. Unfortunately there are no arranging credits or original artists listed in the liner notes.

Especially impressive is the arrangement on I Want You Back. I've probably heard more than a dozen covers of this classic, and this might be the first one that worked for me.

Taste the Chaos is held back by the engineering. The mix lacks excitement and oomph. Blend in the block is strong but electronic sounding. The bass is especially unpalatable, sounding very pointed and thin rather than round and booming; It almost sounds like bass notes might be out of the vocalists' range. Finally, a sense of sameness permeates Taste the Chaos. The guys have a nice block sound, but the sound remains uniform throughout. This uniformity isn't a deal breaker in the EP format (the album is only seventeen minutes), but would get tiresome on anything longer. Taken in whole, Taste the Chaos is a conventional, average album. It shows some talent and dedication on behalf of the group, but doesn't show nuance and excellence to rear above the pack. Taste the Chaos is your basic box of Kraft: it's good, you'll eat it and like it, but not a destination food.


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 2
Innovation / Creativity 2
Soloists 2
Sound / Production 2
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 Accidentally in Love 2
2 Alison 2
3 Good Things 2
4 I Want You Back 2
5 If You Could Only See 2

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that my first draft of this review was pretty scathing. To put it bluntly, Vocal Chaos' newest EP Taste the Chaos is pretty unexciting. But, come on, how can you be upset with a group of guys who ten years out of college are still having a great time making contemporary a cappella music together? At the end of the day, what we do should be fun, and I applaud Vocal Chaos for putting together a celebration of the good times they've had together. At the same time, they asked for criticism, so here we go.

Gentlemen, based on what I've read on your website and in your liner notes, I'm not sure this album is a good representation of how you see yourselves as a group. Your website says that you're "one of Chicago's most exciting and unique a cappella bands" and that you are "always fresh and fun". I'm sorry to say, I just don't hear any of that on this recording. The vocals, both lead and background, sound very poorly autotuned and robotic. It's not fair to expect a perfect translation of your live energy into the studio, but I think you can come a lot closer than this. At the very least, you guys need to be much more careful with the autotune next time around, especially on the soloists. There are lots of obvious tuning glitches that take a lot away from the performances.

Also, I feel compelled to speak a little on the topic of arranging, since it seems to be an area in which you strive to be progressive and dynamic. "Rang a ma lang", as used in the opening to I Want You Back, doesn't really cut it as an interesting background syllable anymore, especially not at the semi-professional level. Neither does using arrangements that are, or at least are dead ringers for, arrangements that are more than a decade old (I'm pretty sure that the arrangement of Alison here is the same one that's on the first a cappella recording I ever owned: a 1994 recording of the DC based group, The Metronomes). I'd highly recommend listening to some House Jacks, Blue Jupiter, m-pact, or any of the other male groups on the cutting edge of the pro scene for ideas in the future.

I always have a hard time reviewing albums like this one because it's so difficult to review them appropriately. On one hand, this is a solid (if flawed) release from a bunch of men who are clearly in this to have a good time. On the other hand, it just doesn't hold up in comparison to the rest of the scene these days. As a memento for their friends and fans, I think Taste the Chaos is a success. As a representation of their work for the general public, I think Vocal Chaos may need to go back to the drawing board.

More Reviews

Advertisement

How To Get Your Work Reviewed

To have your album (2 or more tracks) reviewed by RARB, please email us with your name, group name and album title. You will receive a response with information on how to register your album in our system.

To have your digital single reviewed by RARB, please fill out our online singles registration form.

×

Ordering Information

To order this CD, visit the group's website.

×