"Excavating: Volume 2" (BDP; 2007)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Perhaps because I know a little more about Variant Cause now than I did when I reviewed "Excavating: Volume I," I enjoyed "Excavating: Volume 2" more than its predecessor.

It seems to me that "Volume 2" has more of a hard rock edge than "Volume 1," and the band seems more confident than they did on the material on the first disc. There's still some strange stuff here, with music that could come from a Jethro Tull, King Crimson or B-52s album (!) as well as from the likes of Frank Zappa. One of the things I like most about "Volume 2" is that the band seems to be enjoying a real freedom with the songs on this collection, the kind of freedom that allowed them to record whatever the hell they wanted, however the hell they wanted to record it. That freedom led to a freshness that is still tangible today.

Like the first "Excavating" collection, "Volume 2" is re-mastered from original recordings, these made from 1985 - 1989. Once again, the production is impressive and the songs sound as though they could have been recorded yesterday. Okay, maybe not yesterday but recently.

Again, "Excavating 2" may not be everybody's cup of tea, but it's an eclectic collection that will hold your attention rather nicely.

Variant Cause: Jan Gregor - lead vocals, rhythm guitar; Mark Fenton - drums, backing vocals; Greg Morlan - lead guitar, backing vocals; Ryco - bass, backing vocals.

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"Excavating: Volume I" (BDP; 2006)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

I'll come right out and admit it: I'd never heard of Variant Cause and, until I listened to "Excavating: Volume I," I was completely unfamiliar with their music. Based on the CD cover and title, however, I would have guessed the band was one of many hard rock bands that tried to make it in the grunge-heavy late 80s and missed the boat while Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nirvana went on to fortune and fame.

Now that I've heard the CD, of course, it's obvious my first impression was dead wrong.

Definitely not hard rock or grunge, "Excavating: Volume I" is instead a collection of eccentric rockers, ranging from throbbing, dance rhythm songs not unlike David Bowie's later material to hip alternative rockers that bring to mind bands like King Crimson, Blue Oyster Cult and Devo (yes, I said Devo).

It's a fun and fascinating ride, with the band showcasing original songwriting and admirable musicianship while the production (which claims to be created from master tapes that were once thought lost and recently re-discovered) sounds fresh and near perfect. The songs are surprisingly even considering they are purportedly taken from various sources.

I can't recommend "Excavation: Volume I" to most readers of Rough Edge. Again, it's not a heavy metal album and it's really not even hard rock (although it does have elements of both). Still, those looking for a fresh sound (even one that's almost twenty years old) could do worse than pick up this CD.

Variant Cause: Jan Gregor - lead vocals, rhythm guitar; Mark Fenton - drums, backing vocals; Greg Morlan - lead guitar, backing vocals; Ryan Collins - bass, backing vocals.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright 2008 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
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