Never judge a book by its cover, or a band by its nationality. The sexy, upbeat classic/pop rock grooves of The Vegetarians’ A Vegetable Radio Soup hardly seem like they could be the product of a Swedish/Bostonian pairing. Supremely danceable and undeniably catchy, these finger-snapping tunes are a delight to listen to. Excellent production, unwavering rhythms, rich harmonies, thick layers, balanced instrumentation, swinging beats, vocals that invite the listener to sing along; all of these qualities make A Vegetable Radio Soup a hearty candidate for one’s favorite playlist. The lyrics are sassy and quirky, especially “Space & Time,” a whimsical melding of futuristic themes and classic Southern rock guitars. The singer’s vocals are free-spirited and energetic; despite the fact that he takes liberties with the melody and obviously has fun singing, he is never flat, forced, nasal, weak, or faulted in any other way.
This album only consists of four tracks, which may seem odd or unfinished to industry veterans. However, its tiny price tag (a mere $3.99, Amazon) and abbreviated length may be perfect for the new incarnation of the music industry, and will appeal to the cash-strapped, ADD youth who make up the next generation of consumers. As individual digital downloads revolutionize the way listeners select and purchase their music, production excellence and emotional impact take precedence over album length, and The Vegetarians have mastered both of those qualities. However, the youth are also highly susceptible to press, advertisement, and media coverage, and the image-less sub-par quality of the short bios that were sent out with the album does not match the excellence this group has achieved musically. That and a plain album cover are the only weak points of this EP.
“(Carry On) River of Life” begins with a mellow groove, and a muted reverb-laden trumpet in the background reinforces the lounge-type feel of this track. A full chorus of harmonized “ooohs” adds Southern soul spice to this funk-flavored anthem. The half-screamed chorus line adds an undercurrent of rebellious energy and invites the listener to yell their own enthusiastic “carry on!” Barely perceptible, an electric guitar wails a single-string solo throughout the song. A brilliant synth-trumpet breakdown towards the end adds character and interest, and serves to rope the listener back into the song and drive the chorus deeper into one’s mind. This song is a great opener because it immediately drives a memorable chorus into the listener’s consciousness, and when one thinks of The Vegetarians, this tune will easily come to mind.
“Drifting” floats in on light hi-hat hits and a groovy synth vox. Funky and smart, this track keeps things fresh with appropriate breaks beneath the word “silence,” combinations of live and electric drum sounds, and the same jazzy muted trumpet that was heard on the opener. Once again, the soulful fully harmonized gospel choir backs the lead singer throughout the song.
“Thunder and rain” is the weakest track on the album, and thus placed appropriately after two blockbusters. By the third track in the album, listeners have already made up their minds that they are interested and willing to listen to more, even if subsequent tracks are not as catchy as the initial songs. Despite the fact that other tracks overshadow it, this song is still a good tune. Saxophone lines, a rainstick, and undistorted electric rhythm guitar give a more pensive feel. The lyrics to this song are also not as sassy, and the line “Running forward to the pleasure and the pain” calls up echoes of cliché. Somehow, this song is reminiscent of Prince in the 1980’s, which seems to fit with the instrumentation, retro drums, and thick harmonization on the chorus. The album ends on a strong note with “Space & Time.” Cute lyrics about space travel conjure up the image of a cowboy in a top-down Cadillac cruising the planets. The song begins with a wailing Southern Rock slide guitar solo that continues in the background throughout. “Shoo-wop” swing choir lines reinforce the country/oldies feel, while the vocals are delivered with a Texas accent. The dichotomy of the country blues instrumentation paired with tongue-in-cheek astronaut lyrics is a spectacular concept pairing on par with pirate vs. ninja or robot vs. dinosaur.
This EP is perfectly listenable, singable, danceable, and shareable. With better marketing, this youth-geared group is set to go viral. Highly recommended.
Review by Sarah Whited
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)