Album Review by Mark Bayross
Two years on from V.A.S.T.’s stunning VISUAL AUDIO SENSORY THEATER, MUSIC FOR PEOPLE marks an interesting development in the band’s sound. For a start, V.A.S.T. is a band now: singer-guitarist Jon Crosby has hired full-time musicians to help him bring his songs to life: drummer Steve Clark, bassist Thomas Froggatt and Australian guitarist Justin Cotta, although his predecessor Rowan Robertson plays on this album.
Whereas the debut album had more of an experimental edge, mixing heavy rock dynamics with Eastern samples (European and Oriental) and a spectral ambience, this record is, for the most part, a different beast. That’s not to say that the trademark V.A.S.T. breadth of sound has gone – far from it – almost every track is drenched in strings (provided by The New Bombay Recording Orchestra). Jon Crosby has not lost his ability to make the hairs on the back of your head stand up.
As the opening strum of THE LAST ONE ALIVE builds into a soaring chorus, and minor chords tumble all over the mix, it’s hard not to feel exhilarated. The fact that it leads into the grungy FREE, probably V.A.S.T. at their most defiant, just adds to the aural punch. I DON’T HATE ANYTHING, however, is more where the new look V.A.S.T. are heading: rich and heavy like U2 at their most anthemic, it’s I STILL HHAVN’T FOUND WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR given a millennial make-over. They come over all U2 on us again later with WE WILL MEET AGAIN.
Elsewhere, Jon wears his influences like a snug-fitting jacket. BLUE has a distinct air of psychedelic era Beatles about it – the looped drums, vocodered vocals and brass giving it an uncanny “Sgt. Pepper” feel. By way of contrast, MY TV AND YOU sounds like Nine Inch Nails meets Transglobal Underground.
And for every ‘typically V.A.S.T.’ monastic chant (WHAT ELSE DO I NEED) or Bulgarian female choir (THE LAST ONE ALIVE), there’s something that makes this album sound different. LAND OF SHAME marries a Byrds-like beat to blasts of noisy guitar, while THE GATES OF ROCK N ROLL is as close to traditional rawk as V.A.S.T. are ever likely to get.
While the music on MUSIC FOR PEOPLE is a lot more middle of the road than on “V.A.S.T.”, the lyrics have a similar air of melancholy (in fact the band say they are even more sombre this time round). Lines like “Hope is falling away from me / Let’s go down with the ship / Let’s slip into oblivion” (BLUE) and “Show me the places / Where I can forget your name / I can’t find anything / Except a void inside” (I DON’T HAVE ANYTHING) are hardly a barrel of laughs.
Having said that, FREE is not the only song with a theme of escape – images of sky and mountains figure heavily throughout the album. Besides, how can you not smile at THE LAST ONE ALIVE with lines like: “…And if the sun comes in your room / And awakes you from your vanity / You won’t find me ‘cos I’ll be / On top of a mountain pissing on your grave”?
As the hauntingly beautiful LADY OF DREAMS brings the album to a close, you have to reflect on what a prodigious talent Jon Crosby is: two wonderful albums to his name and still under 25 years old. While MUSIC FOR PEOPLE packs fewer musical punches than “V.A.S.T.”, it could so easily have disappointed by being an imitation of the first album. Instead, Crosby has chosen to further polish his sound and try out some new directions.
Who knows where they will lead next?