Emery's third album has been anticipated by fans and critics since their mind-blowing sophomore album, The Question, graced our ears. With that release, the bar was set pretty high, and expectations for I'm Only a Man have been great. As they began to promote the new CD with new songs on their myspace, fans sent mixed messages: "this rocks!" and "what happened?"
At first listen, I was agreeing with the latter. I simply believe that Emery set the bar up high very early on with only their second release. With that, people thought they had a lot up their sleeves and could deliver projects like The Question over and over again. The harmonies, the metaphoric lyrics, the instruments, and the mixed vocals: consisting of angelic harmonies and heart-wrenching screams; it was beautifully put together. I thought with this third release, these elements existed, just not in the order they had previously, which threw me off because I still listen to The Question quite often. Such a different feel just wasn't expected. However, the more listens given to I'm Only a Man, the more treasures are found, along with the consistency and the emotion felt when listening to The Question. So, if at first you don't find it so tasteful, a few more listens are likely to change your mind.
The disc opens up with the two songs that were first released on myspace for the public: "Rock-N-Rule" and "The Party Song." The opening track is well placed as it sets the motion going for the rest of the record. "The Party Song" slightly differs from the demo version that was online, however the changes are spot-on and make the song's quality multiply from what it already was. Also, the subject matter of this song is ideal as many of us can relate to friends using drugs and alcohol as remedies, and the trials we face in the convincing of others that those decisions are wrong and destructive to them and their futures. From there, the I'm Only a Man goes into a few songs that are sure to become fan favorites. "Worlds Away" is an upbeat tune about "the feeling I get when I want to return everything that's in my life." "The Story About a Man With a Bad Heart" is a roller-coaster ride in both vocal and lyrical content, and definitely one of the more emotional songs on the record. "What Makes a Man a Man" is a beautiful softer song that includes amazing instrumental performances accompanied with harmonizing vocals that are oh so pleasing to the ears. The only song that feels out of place on the record is "Don't Bore Us, Get To The Chorus" which starts off with chants of "Never gonna go away…" which abruptly changes into soft vocals, then into quick guitars and drums, and finally into electronic vocals and keys. This pattern repeats throughout the song and proves to be very sporadic and unpredictable. The album closes with an eleven minute song, "From Crib to Coffin," whose tempo starts off slow and sad but goes into a faster pace with emotional screams. It is an ideal ending that wraps everything up and leaves the listener satisfied.
The biggest theme found in I'm Only a Man can even be identified in the title: the imperfections of humans, mistakes, and sin. Many of the songs revolve around mistakes and the regret that follows them; the moments which we look back and say "if I had only known then what I know now…" The lyrics are not very spiritual, most of them dealing with relationships with women, and/or man versus himself situations. The statement "I'm only a man," or statements extremely similar, are found throughout the record normally in the context of "I looked at what I had done, and I realized I'm only a man"- the realization that we are not God; we are not perfect. We will mess up in life, but our faults enable us to learn and gain triumphs. We shouldn't use our humanity as an excuse to sin, but to use it a tool to learn from.
Overall, this album delivers the essentials that Emery fans tend to look for: lyrical depth, beautiful instrumentals, and touching vocals. Some may be a bit skeptical at first, as it does seem a tad different from the preceding albums. Do not be hesitant about buying the record, however- its treasures are there, and the more you listen to I'm Only a Man, the more you fall in love with it. This album, without a doubt, continues to prove Emery's talent as individual musicians and collectively as a band.- Review date: 9/30/07, written by Lindsay Wiseman
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