(Disclaimer: I feel a little bit odd talking about this album as a member of the MIT a cappella community, but I hope you won't judge my comments differently for it.)
My thoughts on SoundProof haven't changed since the day I bought it. Technically, it's flawless, from the first snare hit on "Don't You Forget About Me" to the end of "Girlfriend". The tuning and timing are spot-on, not a note or solo flair is out of place. It's pristine. And, yet, for all that, I don't like it.
So what's missing? For me, it was energy. It was passion. The reviewers have noted that the tracks are literal transcriptions of the originals; I agree, but I find that they feel more like demonstrations of style. The title SoundProof is, I feel, apt. This album is a proof of concept of what you can do with your own studio, of the time and care you can put in to make an album perfect. I feel it may have hurt us (the Chorallaries) on our last album - being able to refine the tuning as much as you like will give you a nice-sounding album, but is no substitute for power.
"Don't You Forget About Me" is long and boring (the way I feel about the original). "No Such Thing" is absolutely flawless, but the background sounds so mechanized that I can't groove to it; I get none of the intensity or feeling John Mayer brings to the song. "The Kids Aren't Alright" is nice, but, as the song is set in a lower key (understandably), the screaming anger of the Offspring original is lost. The list goes on. "I Wish" (probably one of the best cuts on the album), may or may not be an exact replica of the original, but it is an exact replica of the Cadence arrangement of the same song, but lacking in the simple flair and musical delight of that version.
Across the board, SoundProof just doesn't wow me. It never offends and is often pleasant, but nowhere on this CD is a track that I was eager to show to people. There was no "Crawling in the Dark" by Off the Beat, no "Dive Into You" from the Jacks, no "Yellow" or "Man in the Mirror" off of Superlogs, the Logs' last album. The album never wails. Everywhere, their normally vibrant live performances were dulled by the gleaming edge of perfection. The chords aren't warm or passionate, and neither are my feelings for this CD.
So, my question to the reviewers is, if you had such reservations about the CD - which it seems you did - why did you give it across-the-board 5s? If you were worried about energy, or repeat listenability, or any of these things, why were they not reflected in your scores? It feels to me like the a cappella community has maybe forgotten that, while technical wizardry can make a good song great, it can only make a bad song tolerable. Maybe we all need to go back and listen to BOCA '99, and remember what makes a song wail. Or even just go back and listen to Superlogs. It's a better CD in every way.
(I also feel I should correct, for factuality's sake, Mr. Minkoff's statement that the studio was a "wise investment for MIT". It would be, yes, had it been an MIT investment. The space is MIT's; the cost of the studio was borne by the Logs and by donations. You think MIT would front the money for an arts group?)
Daniel Bates '05
MIT Impulse (Present) The Beltway Boys (Summer 2007)