Quite Dissapointing: A Quietdrive Retrospective

Originally posted in the comments of the AbsolutePunk.net review of Deliverance.

I’ve been a Quietdrive fan for a long time. Since 2002, actually. The band recorded their first EP in my buddy’s basement in Minnetonka, MN. It was a six-track post-grunge romp. I’d be willing to bet most current QD fans have never heard that album. I still queue it up sometimes: “KB” and “Something That I’m Not” still bring a smile to my face. Did you know there was a mix of “Something That I’m Not” that had Kevin Truckenmiller singing “Brandon’s gay” at the end of the song? That’s just to put into perspective how long I’ve been a fan. Not as long as some, but longer than most. Anyway, even then they were a really promising act. Smart, good-looking kids with a knack for writing hooks.

Quietdrive really hit their stride with their 2003 Demo. It has the track “Handsome Devil’s Benediction,” which builds to one of the most powerful climaxes in modern rock, and my favorite QD track, “Irreversible.” They still play these songs at some shows. Honestly, this was when I was most excited about QD. They really seemed to nail the kind of sound that so many bands try so hard to do – catchy, sophisticated and edgy.

I first heard Sneaker 2 Bombs when I was home from college. It was a side project that Kevin had started up with Matt Kirby. The stuff they wrote was catchy, simple, and lighthearted. It was like Dashboard Confessional had taken over QD… but in a good way. I really liked “Take a Drink,” and “Both Ways.” But, I always preferred the grittier sound of Quietdrive proper.

I was overjoyed when I heard about them signing with a major label. Then there seemed to be an identity crisis in the band. Many of you may remember how they struggled to find themselves a new name in light of a change in musical direction and a new phase in their career. They cycled through a couple of different options; first dropping the Quietdrive moniker altogether and becoming Sneaker 2 Bombs. Then there was some nonsense about becoming “The Neverending…” Eventually, they settled back on Quietdrive. I took this as a good sign that the edgy rock I’d heard on the 2003 EP was going to be refined and be the primary sonic direction of the band. I was completely wrong.

Instead what we got on When All That’s Left Is You were reproduced (see the tempo changes on “Get Up”) and slightly dumbed down (see the change in lyrical content of “Rush Together”) versions of a number of Sneaker 2 Bombs songs, plus a couple of new decent tracks, and a Cyndi Lauper cover. I like When All Thats Left Is You… as a Sneaker 2 Bombs record. You could hear what had been Quietdrive trying to sneak through on “Rise From the Ashes,” but other than that it was largely absent.

Sometime later, at a bar in Minneapolis, I tagged along with the same kid who recorded their first EP to see them. I asked one of them (don’t remember if it was Droo or Brandon) how being on a record label was going. Whoever I was talking to was generally dismayed about the lack of control they had over the first record, and indicated a desire to return to some of the old sounds of Quietdrive. I was heartened by this talk! Could it be that the band I was so keen about would actually deliver on that promise they made in 2003?

When I first heard “Pretend,” I was hopeful. The tune still wasn’t as edgy as I’d have liked, but I decided to give the guys the benefit of the doubt. I still really like the song, and have listened to it countless times. It was a really solid rock song. When a buddy told me the title track for the new album was up on their website, I typed in the URL, crossed my fingers, and waited.

As “Deliverance” washed over me, my hopes were dashed to the floor. This was not Quietdrive. This was some other entity that had stripped itself of what was unique and had replaced it with something mundane and cavity inducing. Still, I forgot about the song and moved on with my life. When the album was released, I came back, hopeful again that I’d find something inspiring in the ashes. When I heard “Believe” my spirits were lifted. The title track even grew on me a bit. But as I listened to the rest of the album, I slowly came to understand that Quietdrive would probably never again offer me what I want from a band. The lyrical content of this album is mostly drivel. And believe me, I know drivel. The tunes, while catchy, aren’t exactly sophisticated. I can only figure that this is a band that doesn’t want to be taken seriously. They write songs about being in love with or losing the ubiquitous unnamed girl, and that express emotion on the most remedial of levels. To be brusque, their intended audience seems to be teenagers or others with naive or simplistic ideas about love and life.

Perhaps for some that’s enough. I demand more from my music for the most part. I want allegory and entendre. I want insightful lyrics about the struggles of being in a relationship, and making it through the day to day shit. Not a bunch of BS about getting shit-faced and forgetting a nameless girl’s birthday. I can liken it to the step backward that Story of the Year took on In The Wake of Determination. What’s particularly alarming to me is the verbiage on the QD website about how proud they are of this record. They may have worked tirelessly to create this album. But for me, and for a lot of people who aren’t hopelessly devoted, it falls tremendously short of expectations.


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November 2008
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