When I first sat down to take a gander at what Fayetteville, Arkansas threesome Listener had come up with on their latest album, Time Is a Machine, I went in unaware of what I was in for. My first feeling was confusion, which quickly turned into satisfaction after a few listens. This happened because I’m not at all used to or familiar with spoken-word rock. Not everybody will appreciate what Listener are trying to accomplish, and the spoken-word style of singer/bassist Dan Smith will throw many off, as it did me, but Time Is a Machine is a good album that will impress if you give it a chance.
What makes Time Is a Machine such an intriguing album is how poetic it feels. Each song showcases powerful guitar riffs and solid drumming that complement Smith’s spoken-word twang. Smith sounds utterly encased in his lyrics, and you can feel the pain that his writing bestows – not only through his voice, but in the instrumentals that surround him. The album feels like a violent storm, with the guitar and drums providing the thunder while Smith’s words portray the anguish of the people swept into the pouring rain.
Throughout this storm are some truly awe-inspiring tracks, the best coming in the forms of “Not Today,” “Tornadoes,” and “There Are Wrecking Balls Inside Us.” “Not Today” and “Wrecking Balls” provide the more gradual songs of Time Is a Machine, and these calms in the storm showcase some of Smith’s most engaging writing, with the buildup of drums and guitar giving the listener an impression they won’t soon forget. This is the opposite with “Tornadoes,” which instead opts to have Smith painfully moan his woes and feelings away in what is the most commanding track on the album.
Time Is a Machine does have its faults, however. These flaws lay mostly in its repetitiveness, as most of the songs sound exactly the same from the next. This may be a drawback when writing spoken-word music, but I feel as though the guitar sounds almost the same in every song, only changing the pace depending on what Smith is chanting to whoever happens to be listening. Other than some of the songs blending together, Listener’s new album is admirable, with a handful of great tracks and some truly brilliant writing throughout.