Smalltown Poets hit the music scene early last year with their self-titled debut on Forefront. Although they had put out a few projects under the name of "Villanelle," Smalltown was a new start and a new direction.
When fans listen closely to Smalltown Poets' new sophomore release, they may be surprised. The new project, entitled Listen Closely, should more adequately be named Smalltown Poets: Part II, because it's sound is merely a continuation of the debut release. The debut album put the band in the spotlight and gained tremendous attention. At the time, it was well-deserved. However, Listen Closely gives me the impression that the boys didn't give themselves enough room to grow and expand like a lot of artists do these days. Instead, I get the feeling they went out of their way to stay where they are.
Of course maybe they are living by the phrase, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." And please, don't get me wrong! The album isn't bad, it's just not different... at all.
The disc (which, by the way, doesn't work in discmans-- only stereos) starts off with "Call Me Christian," an anthem for Christians everywhere which boldly bears the Smalltown Poets signature sound and vocals. Their best accomplishment on the album (to my opinion-- like the rest of this review), follows with the song, "Anything Genuine." The band turns up their electrics just enough to almost leave the pop label but just misses it. Definitely the highlight of the album.
The rest of the album follows suit. Ballads and pop songs similar to the debut project.
Don't write off this project like a movie you wanted to see but received terrible reviews so you decided not to see it. Listen Closely is perfect for Smalltown fans alike and deserves a listen. However, if you're looking for something new, check out Smalltown's new labelmates Raze, or the new Insyderz album.- Review date: 12/14/98, written by John DiBiase
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