I was never much of a Promise Ring fan. Every magazine I read in 1997 told me that I needed to buy Nothing Feels Good, but after listening to it, I felt nothing. Their next album, Very Emergency made me feel even less. But then I heard their last album, Wood/Water and it changed everything. No longer were they the reigning royalty of emo, but a phenomenal pop group that had more in common with Wilco or The Flaming Lips than The Get Up Kids.
Unfortunately, this was fleeting, as Wood/Water marked the end of The Promise Ring for good. At the same time, however, The Dismemberment Plan, a band that held a special place in my heart and record collection, was also breaking up. And along with their parting came the announced demise of deSoto Records, a staple in my indie rock diet.
This triple threat of bad news only got worse with the splitting of Burning Airlines and Shiner, though I had heard rumors that Eric Axelson of The Dismemberment Plan and Davey and Dan of The Promise Ring had started a new band called In English. Several months later, the trio decided to change their name to Maritime and issued a five song EP called Adios. The title track was a marvelous three-minute single, all jangly guitar chords and triumphant trumpet leads. It was outstanding, though certainly not what I had expected. Though the other four songs were enjoyable, “Adios” alone made the single worth its five-dollar price sticker.
Six months later, however, deSoto Records head honcho Kim Coletta announces that it’s not the end after all. The label is revived and ready to merchandise, and it just so happens that their first signing is Maritime. May saw the release of their first full-length, Glass Floor and catchy as it is, it’s not the sort of thing a Dismemberment Plan fan would expect coming from the label that issued Emergency & I.
Glass Floor is essentially a continuation of Adios. Gone are Von Bohlen’s off-key screeches and The D Plan’s spastic keyboard shudders, as they’ve been replaced with clean-toned guitars and straight-shooting jangle-pop melodies. Maritime’s debut single, trumpets and all, has even been carried over to track nine on the new record, as well as “Someone Has to Die,” a saxophone-laden tune from the EP. But the newer songs aren’t to be overlooked. “Sleep Around” has some nice vocal harmonies, and “We’ve Got to Get Out” is Maritime at their most Beatlesque.
So Glass Floor isn’t exactly a new D Plan album. Nor is it another Wood/Water, but Hell, it’s catchy. And there ain’t nothing wrong with that. Maybe, sooner or later, indie bands have to grow up. And if that means a little less distortion and a little more harmony, then I think I can live with that.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.