Menu | Rating System | Guest Book | Archived Reviews:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

  In One-hundred Years the Prize will be Forgotten  
  The Potomac Accord  
  First Flight  
Release Date:
  spring of 2003  
Reviewed by:

I ended my review of the previous Potomac Accord album, Silver Line on a Black Sea, by stating that although the music was lovely and well done, there was something lacking. Some ineffable cathartic quality that The Potomac Accord are able to impart through their live shows, but which they failed to capture on that album. Well i am pleased to announce that they managed to capture that quality quite well on In One-Hundred Years the Prize Will Be Forgotten, and the album really benefits from this fact.

Their previous album was a bleak disc with complex yet minimalist songs that screamed from isolation and loss. Without catharsis, there was no end to the bleakness, so i found it difficult to listen to that first album. Here, they play the same sort of songs, all lonely and moody and screaming and sobbing, yet at the end (and a few places in between) a crack of sunshine breaks through the clouds, and it seems as if all is not lost with the world they describe. I cannot overestimate the value of this feat. It is what separates an album that is merely vaguely depressing from one that is truly enjoyable.

Since there are only 6 songs crammed into the 49 minutes of the album, i shall consider each briefly.

The album opens with A Quiet White Cut by the Longest Blue Shadows, a long tune that begins slowly with a lightly tinking ride cymbal, ominous piano, and half-heard voice. Slowly the drumming grows in force, adding subtle tom hits here and there, while the piano grows and the bass adds light accents. After three minutes the music swells up with a cacophony of synths, piano, bass, thunderous drums, and steadily more forceful vocals. Eventually, the song fades out slowly, with the lyrics repeating "I will swallow you" over and over

After that fade out, Sunset on the Empire begins with static and fuzz, as if someone is trying to find a decent radio station. The song then begins in earnest with forceful piano. The piano carries this one along, accompanied by a sliding bass riff that reminds me of something off of Slint's Spiderland album -- it has a real math rock feel to it. With the piano and the deep drumming, this is another great song, even though the chanted refrain here is "And everything ends" said over and over again.

If the basswork is good on Sunset on the Empire, it is even better on The Empty Road. Here the riff is half jazz, half math rock, and all slinky goodness. The vocalist sings differently here -- his voice is colder and more distant. I guess that's the residual creepiness from the first album seeping in. At any rate, the bass drives this one along wonderfully. The combination of the creepy vocals and the bleak subject matter (just look at the title and think "existential isolation") would lead one to believe that this is another depressing tune. However, after building to a fury of drumming, bass riffage, and staccato piano hits, a female voice comes in and reads something in French. I have no idea what she reads, but after she is done the song is back, this time faster and with strings, and somehow the dark mood has lifted. It is a glorious moment of release.

Up next is Some Kind of Farewell Forever, which is another title that does not seem to describe a happy little love song. This is a melancholy, languid tune that starts off with rich pianowork and subtle voice that build to a brief frenzy, and then lazily fade out. Not the most spectacular song on the album, but not a snoozer by any stretch.

Next is The Ghost of Kalamazoo, which is a long, slow tune. It has melancholy moments and strong furious moments. This is what Godspeed would sound like if they were a piano-based band from the American midwest. It ends with a lovely piano, drum, and bass breakdown wherein the band really show their stuff. The piano part in particular is stunning. The song just builds and builds, until suddenly it stops dead with one last drum hit. The sudden silence always shakes me slightly. Sometimes, i want that little rock out piece at the end to continue forever.

Finally, the album ends with Newly Fallen Century, a live favorite from the band. Every time i have seen them perform this tune i have been bowled over. It packs a world of emotional depth into a mere 8 minutes. It is also the only song on this album to not feature the paino in a prominent position. Here, the pianist plays stacatto guitar riffs, and the bassist thuds aways mightily. This builds to a massive frenzy, with all three band members harmonizing wordlessly away from their mics, so that the sound of the voices is half-buried in the overall sonic frenzy of the tune. Really, this is an amazing song, and i have to say that The Potomac Accord have succeeded in capturing its glory on record.

Overall this is very well done. Not only are the members talented musicians who work well together, but they also produced this disc themselves. No mean feat, considering how good it sounds. Heck, at this rate they can always consider secondary careers as recording engineers!

To sum up, In One-Hundred Years the Prize Will Be Forgotten is a well recorded album of powerful, emotional tunes. It is sad at times, angry at times, and joyous at times. I guess you could call it "post-rock", if you want a convenient genre niche in which to place the band, but i think they transcend that genre. Sure, there are echos of Godspeed in Ghost of Kalamazoo, of Slint in The Empty Road, of Talk Talk in Some Kind of Farewell Forever, and of Mogwai in Newly Fallen Century, but the band has succeeded in merging influences from those four giants of the genre into something uniquely their own. Of course, the uniqueness might come from the prominence of the piano in their sound, but i think it also comes from the almost emo style of the vocals.

Really, if you are curious, i urge you to check this album out. You won't regret it. In fact, you can order it right from the band's label. And of course, if you have been lucky enough to see them in concert, then you need to get this album.

Related Links:

A review of the first Potomac Accord album.
The official Potomac Accord website.
The web home of First Flight Records, home of The Potomac Accord.


Return to the top of this page. | Return to the Album Review menu.