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Whatever's Got You Down

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Album Review

Samiam had largely been on hiatus since the release of 2000's Astray, random overseas tour dates about the only sign of life coming out of the main Samiam camp. Six years and one new member later (bassist Jeremy Bergo — Sean Kennerly is now on guitar in place of a departed James Brogan) and the guys have finally returned with album number seven, Whatever's Got You Down. Overall, the record plays more like Samiam's gift to devotees who have stuck with them over the years than a real attempt to try roping in boatloads of new fans. It's not that the album is inaccessible; it's just much less polished than other more recent albums, taking a few more spins to really connect. The guys used decidedly rawer production to produce a more organic-sounding album, but at first, the grainy production proves to be more distracting than anything else. The drums are noticeably downplayed and Jason Beebout is quite hoarse in his delivery, the music somewhat reminiscent of Hot Water Music. At times, though, his vocals sound very strained, and consequently, the opening "When We're Together" takes a few listens to transition from grating to enjoyable. But once you are acclimated, the disc become much easier to take — early distractions fall to the background and the band's wonderfully distinctive guitar work confidently bursts forward — and emotional cuts like "Do You Want to Be Loved," "Lullaby," and the especially lovely "Storm Cloud" shine through brightly. The quintet's aggressive playing remains forceful and energizing; the brazen guitars of "Take Care" and the hook-filled "Holiday Parade" weather through heartache and regret without diluting the hardcore-indebted pop-punk of Samiam's past into the emo slush of many of their successors. Fans who take time with Whatever's Got You Down should find satisfaction in the end, since it finds Samiam ultimately returning to the punk fold in 2006 with heart, muscle, and melody — and like six years haven't even passed at all. Plus the trippy cover art illusion is almost worth the physical purchase on its own.


Formed: 1988 in California

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Part of the Bay Area punk revival of the late '80s and early '90s, Samiam specialized in the catchy, anthemic punk-pop typical of the Warped Tour crowd, but separated themselves with a greater debt to hardcore and a more introspective lyrical bent that won over emo audiences. Formed in 1988, most of the band's founding members had played in other Berkeley-area punk groups: vocalist Jason Beebout had been in Isocracy with bassist Martin Brohm; guitarist Sergie Loobkoff had been a drummer for Sweet...
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Whatever's Got You Down, Samiam
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