Malcolm McLaren, you could say, succeeded in what he was doing - punk rock has infiltrated every aspect of pop culture these days. It's in the mall, on corporate radio, and at least one character on your average reality TV show probably sports a Clash patch on a backpack somewhere. However, far from the sounds of Good Charlotte and the denizens of Hot Topic, there are still bands that believe in the spirit of punk rock, despite many setbacks. The Exit is one of those bands. On their second full length, Home For An Island, they display a love for the classic reggae-cum-rock stylings of bands such as the Clash and the Police while coupling it with the more rocking sounds of the Pixies and U2. Though the band's avowed spiritual homeland is on the stage, enough power and energy comes through on this recording to convince any casual listener of the band's devotion. The album is a little bottom-heavy; Jeff DaRosa's meaty, dub-influenced bass lines on tracks like "So Leave Then" sometime leave the often minimal guitars in the dust. You can see their love of late period Clash coming through in nearly every track, though they don't entirely give up three-chord punk in favor of reggae noodling. Needless to say, you won't be hearing this album at your local Pacific Sunwear anytime soon. This is punk rock where it belongs - in the clubs and on the stereos of the true believers.
ALL MUSIC GUIDE
There aren't that many guitar bands that can incorporate elements of synth pop without starting to sound like a synth pop band, and even fewer that can incorporate elements of dubwise reggae without starting to sound like a wannabe reggae band. But the Exit has done the seemingly impossible -- taken familiar elements and combined them into something that's not so much unique as uniquely personal and smart, and yet immediately accessible. Even when the band's influences are less than fully digested ("Back to the Rebels" sounds like Counting Crows doing a cover version of "Watching the Detectives"), the result feels more like a creative collage than a derivative cut-and-paste. One of the things that makes this album so satisfying is the way it builds slowly to its climax, a gorgeous and emotionally powerful song called "So Leave Then," on which a slightly dislocated rhythm supports a heart-on-the-sleeve melody and unabashedly immediate three-chord guitar (and even a few bars of make-believe steel drum). It's hard to put a finger on what makes this album so special, but you'll get it when you hear it. Highly recommended.
- Rick Anderson
I started writing something completely different regarding the sound of Home For An Island, the Exit's second full-length player but I scrapped it. I keep going back (and forth) to "Don't Push," the opening track which plays like ice on a hot skillet; it jumps, it bubbles, it sizzles, melting away until you have something completely different left over. Reverb and echoed guitars slide on in, a semblance of percussion comes through and the vocals? Well, it's over the top but it works to the band's benefit. It seems as if there's so much going on it's difficult to grasp hold of simply one element. The band is firmly rooted with its punk aesthetic but there's enough pop sensibility to go along with it you might end up thinking the group's contemporaries were bands like The Police, Elvis Costello, and even The Clash, whom they've oft been compared to. They're not even afraid to experiment with the odd instrument here like on "So Leave Then," filled with a steel drum of all things! With Home For An Island, the Exit has surpassed my expectations and sometimes, that's a difficult thing to do.
When The Exit dropped its 2002 debut, New Beat (Some), it was darn near impossible to reference the New York trio without a passing mention to The Clash and The Police. After all, the trio's love for Caribbean rhythms, punk's aggravated guitar collisions and pop melodies tugged The Exit right in The Police and Clash's wake.
Home For an Island takes those highly lauded influences, cuts it with a thick dose of heavy, heavy dub, rolls with a serious step forward in songwriting maturity and lets it burn. This time out, the band's smoke has its own flavor, own direction and own claim to fame that makes its debut look like piddly kids' stuff. With a deeper dedication to groove and atmosphere, The Exit's dub puts it on equal footing with reggae-punks such as The Members and Stiff Little Fingers, as acts such as Trenchmouth are realistically in The Exit's sights.
Although anyone with an ear for punk's spirit and reggae-induced lineage will be able to spot the three-chord DNA that defines Home For an Island, The Exit turns in its big guitars - and Police-inspired pop, for that matter - in favor of murky low ends and a powerful, albeit relatively minimal guitar assault. Guitarist Ben Brewer wields his instrument truly like an axe, sometimes hacking away with pinpoint-precise rhythms ("Don't Push"), others with funk's chunky back-and-forth ("Back to the Rebels") and others with melodic acoustic strumming perfect for a campfire ("Soldier"). Where Brewer doles out guitar work that's one part Mick Jones, one part Bootsy Collins, the band's rhythm section steadfastly builds a foundation on which he can rock out. "Don't Push" combines brutal tom beats with Jeff DaRosa's smoked-up bass line; on "Italy" DaRosa's deliberate backbone gives Brewer's echo-ridden guitar the form it needs to go nuts; "So Leave Then" features an impossibly low bass line and drumming that'd you expect to find piped out of Studio One in the late '60s.
Through it all, however, is a relentless spirit that makes it obvious The Exit hasn't turned its back on its punk upbringing. Like The Clash's Sandinista! crammed punk into a Jamaican context, The Exit builds on Big Apple punk rock. No matter how sleepy the band's dub gets, punk's rough edges, usually there from Brewer's sharp guitar work, are there to keep Home For an Island from getting too mellow. With that, of course, comes The Exit's newfound ability to reach out of the punk-rock underground and, using its determined songwriting, challenge a whole world rather than just a scene.
As cliché as it sounds, The Exit's Home for an Island is the most profound and talented example of dub-influenced rock I've stumbled upon since The Clash's London Calling or The Police released Zenyatta Mondatta. Emotionally charged and forcefully driven guitar work, infectiously repetitive bass licks and vocal lines/lyrics that somehow find positive connotations in sitting Bono as an influence, Home for an Island's Police-edque Suburban reggae is a step above their highly acclaimed debut, New Beat. While their overtly political lyrics are sometimes cheesy and forced - "It seems like when we get something special, they buy it up and sell it back to the rebels" - their hooks more then compensate and songs such as "Don't Push" and "So Leave Then" will lurk in your subconscious until they become a hypnotically permanent fixture, enduring the haphazard chaos of time and life itself.
- Barry Engelhardt
An expansive, sweltering, tropical monster of heat and passion.
Let's get this out of the way: The Exit is a fucking awesome band. They are a power trio that possesses ludicrous technical prowess as well as rhythmic dexterity, daring to challenge lords such as The Police and Talking Heads for their thrones. Seriously, I thought I liked their debut (‘02's New Beat), but when I caught these guys live last year… WOW were they beyond recording's capability of capturing sound. Especially the drummer: the man made a joke out of the other bands' skinsmen. It was like watching Heath from Mock Orange or Stewart Copeland on crack.
With that said, my enthusiasm for Home For an Island is only tempered by the fact that the bio throws so many goddamn "selling points" in my face. When I listen to this expansive, sweltering, tropical monster of heat and passion, I don't give a fuck about their booking agent (same as Elvis Costello's and The Strokes'), how Recover loves them (maybe Recover should take a hint and write some good music for a change, then), how one of them has an "influential" family member in the "biz," or how they're currently living with the next Basquiat. Trivial "did you know"s don't mean shit without the kind of minor-based, lopsided beauties that, thankfully, The Exit create. So don't fucking shove hype down people's throat, alright? Let the music speak for itself. Cuz this industry is already so over-populated by bands propped up by empty press, that losing authentic artists like The Exit would surely be the death of real music.
Home For an Island is rich (Ron St. Germain never fails), inescapable, and daring in its pursuit of deep grooves and heartfelt serenades. Leave the bullshit at the door and you will surely agree.
DELUSIONS OF ADEQUACY
I caught The Exit with labelmates The Ghost three or so years ago and was very impressed. The band reminded me of a mixture between The Police and modern emo-pop, with a little bit of punk-rock attitude thrown in for good measure. I picked up the debut, The New Beat, and while it's nothing incredibly striking, it remains a pleasant listen.
Home for an Island is a huge, huge step forward for this NYC trio, and it should catapult the band into the big leagues if there's any justice. Rather than contenting themselves with reinterpreting The Police, the guys in The Exit have dug deeper, going into the worlds of dub reggae and classic rock in addition to punk and power-pop.
Deep, solidly played grooves surge back and forth until emerging into huge, anthemic choruses. The rhythm section lays down some very creative dub-influenced beats, allowing guitarist Ben Brewer the space to toss off effect-laden lead after lead. Bassist/vocalist Jeff DaRosa's voice remains distinctively calm and collected yet expressive, and his lyricism has improved by leaps and bounds. Brewer also contributes his grittier vocals to three of the songs here - "Don't Push," "Back to the Rebels," and "Darlin" are all among the strongest selections here.
This is the sound of a band that has absorbed its influences and is unafraid to chart its own future. Home for an Island is a terrific, unique record, and hopefully it's just a beginning for The Exit.
IN MUSIC WE TRUST
Playing with a punk mentality, and using their punk influences, New York City's The Exit's sophomore album, Home for an Island, also incorporates the band's love of dub and reggae, creating an interesting mix that may seem odd to the unknowing. But, upon your first listen to Home for an Island, you will "get it".
From the groove-laden opener of "Don't Push", its rich dub influences very apparent from the sound of the guitar, and its reggae rhythms giving the song its memorable groove, the band adds a rock sensibility to the song. Which helps to transform it from standard dub and reggae into a new sound that is both complex and enlightening.
From there, the album continues on with this idea, as "Back to the Rebels" attests to. Danceable and filled with an irresistible groove, The Exit add some rock guitar noise and hooks to the reggae, while "Darlin" finds the band giving the same treatment to a rock ballad.
Stepping away from the reggae for a bit, "Soldier" is an acoustic song that shows the band can step aside from their sound and still sound good. Ending on a high note, "Already Gone" closes the album and gives you a taste of the band's more poppy side, still incorporating the reggae, mind you. It's a wonderful voyage, one that is both rocking and danceable. Never overwhelming or awkward, The Exit effortlessly blend their influences and create a sound that, unlike others who say this, is uniquely their own. I'll give it a B.
- Alex Steininger
The Exit "Home for an Island" (CD)
released in 2004
Sophomore albums can be a real bitch. People have expectations. Most critics will become, well, more critical. If you change your sound too much, these same people/critics will rag on you and if you don't change your sound at all, again, more ragging. Really, there is seemingly a lot of pressure to make that sophomore album all it can be and more. Well,Home for an Island, the Exit's second full-length surpasses, without a doubt, any type of sophomore drought and builds tenfold on what they created on their debut, New Beat.
New Beat was a fine introduction to this New York trio's quarry of capabilities. Yes, it was hella influenced by the Police, had some of the best drumming indie rock has seen in years, and each of the eleven tracks screamed with a confidence not heard often on debut records. Now, withHome for an Island, the Exit have expanded on their once more so simplistic style and sound like a band that has been writing music for 20 some odd years.
At first listen, it seems as if the Exit smoked a bunch of pot, jammed for a bit, came up with some odd song structures, and called it an album. Yeah, the first listen might be a bit of a struggle for some. However, like a brand new pair of sneakers, this album gets better and can be fully appreciated with time - time well spent once you're there.
From the beginning Clash-like guitar strums of "Don't Push" to the reggae-soaked "So Leave Then" it is clear that the Exit's goal was to grow as not only musicians, but as songwriters. Each of the ten tracks are so articulately designed, so perfected, and so goddamn enjoyable that you can't help but want to thank them for such a diverse album. Anthemic, one could say. Each song has that one climatic part making for an intense listening experience through and through.
There are just so many things happening on Home for an Island that it's tough to pinpoint standout parts/tracks. Again, the instrumentation is hands down dead on - not overly technical where it takes away from the flow of the songs, but technical enough to be quite notable. And to pigeonhole the Exit into one category would be ridiculous; they draw influences from so many styles of music. There are hints of reggae, folk, and dub all revolving around wholesome rock music. Make up your own category.
A track that does, however, standout on the disc is "Soldier," one of the most poignant songs the band has written. A simple acoustic guitar guides the song as harmonica breaks in at just the right times while Jeff DaRosa sincerely sings about a soldier lost at war. It's quite a reflective protest song and coincidentally is the most straightforward track on the album.
If you dug New Beat, you're almost guaranteed to find a whole lotta enjoyment in Home for an Island. Let it grow on you. It keeps getting better.
LOST AT SEA
The Exit is comprised of three young gentlemen from New York City. They play rock music not dissimilar to the Police. Though the influence of that 80's trio reverberates throughout much of the Exit's music, the band also has the ability to add its own flair and trademark.
Home for an Island shows a group that didn't just sit around getting drunk and living life between albums - it practiced and got better. Though the group's Some debut, New Beat, was nothing to scoff at, the band has matured and improved dramatically since that record and the change is immediately noticeable.
Opening with the haunting jam of "Don't Push Your Love Away," the music retains its signature reggae influence but expands from the simplistic yet snappy jangle of its debut. The song is infectious while also dense and layered. Another surprise is the confidence and improvement of part time singer, Ben Brewer's voice. Whether due to production or genetics, the last album suffered from some off-key faltering, yet this time, on "Don't Push," the voice fits perfectly with the sound.
Throughout the album, the group continues to expand its consciousness and sound while maintaining a definite pop aesthetic. Throw influences from dub to punk to prog rock, and know that the ability to write a sharp hook and chorus is no small feat. Once the initial shock of their improved presence wears off, the songs continue to hold up their end of the bargain. The blistering "Let's Go To Haiti" and the laid back "So Leave Then" continue to impress on repeated listens.
Though this album is certainly exciting, it falls short of flawless. On "Soldier," singer Jeff Darosa flirts with some political overtones and acoustic singer songwriter woes, but is unable to pull it off. It not only sounds out of place on the album, but could be mistaken for sappy college rock. While "Tell Me All Again" is one of the album's fastest songs, it's also the one that pushes the pop envelope too far, and simply becomes annoying.
Home for an Island is good, and is a great example of how to defeat the sophomore slump. Through a careful refinement of direction and sound, the Exit has fashioned itself a group to look out for.
If the cover of The Exit's debut, New Beat, portrayed them as idealistic young '70s punk disciples, Home for an Island's sleeve shows a trio of rock-star decadents partying down with the three W's: wine, whiskey and women. Influence-wise, though, they've hardly thrown over the Clash for the Stones. Home... has the same pop sensibility, married to liberal doses of heavily dubbed-up reggae, that garnered the Exit so many comparisons to the Police, as well as Strummer et al. In fact, you can practically hear "Message in a Bottle"'s final refrain behind singer/bassist Jeff DaRosa floatily intoning "I left my home for an island..." on the album's title track. I don't mean to imply that the band's sound is unduly derivative; they're skilled at nodding heartily to the past while concentrating on the future, starting with DaRosa's hyper-pretty vocal style (no Sting rasp or Strummer snarl there) and the harmonies furnished by guitarist Ben Brewer. If they were playing a bit faster, I'd have to call them emo, especially given the heart-on-sleeve nature of certain lyrics ("If you find love hold tight / Don't push your love away"). Home for an Island is a collection of mature, well-played and well-written songs that, unfortunately, aren't nearly as catchy as anything the Exit's predecessors put out. You may never fall in love with it, and you'll have to give it a few listens before you do. But it's worth at least that.
- Sarah Zachrich
FLEX YOUR HEAD
The Exit plays elegant punk that harkens back to the early days of U2, The Police, and The Clash. Dreamy at times, yet strikingly attentive (especially the rhythm section), Home For An Island contains reggae rock vibes with the quiet disobedience of punk stirring about, making the listening experience much more esoteric than say a Sublime or 311 record. Making smart, detailed rock is not easy, yet The Exit uses good blueprints and executes its blend of dub, rock, and island beats with grace and assertiveness. If you yearn for something headier than another bleach-haired punk rock band that sings without conviction, check out The Exit.
- Mike SOS
In a dialogue of rising action and subsequent denouement, The Exit, in their September 7 album, asserts itself as the selfsame genre chimera. Shrouded in penumbras of indie, nuances of reggae, and auras of late nineties alternative, The Exit remains an elusive quarry. The hunt of this wild beast is splendid.
Injected with the sonorous voice of front-man bassist Jeff DaRosa, the thing pulses in an off-tempo, tonsured delight. Its heartbeat of treble guitar splashes and plum purple bass-guitar walks reverberates through all of its ten tracks. The echoing snare drum and bass boom hiccough through the beast's body in offbeat amorality. Native to the New York City wilderness, The Exit soaks the Big Apple in vinegar sweetness. Irresistible, like that scratch on the roof of your mouth, or the taste of blood.
The beast's roar is audible throughout the forest. It screams the rhythm of life and executes a clean kill to those who listen. This is the kind of music that makes you swallow hard and kind of rock, even if catatonically. Its rim shots form delectable cookie crumbs. Head bobbing is unavoidable; do not try to fight it.
The album's first track, "Don't Push," explodes into a cacophony of ska-guitar and unsynchronized offbeat reggae styling. The title track, "Home for an Island," is a nostalgic ballad reminding one why one has never set foot back into civilization even though one misses the feeling of a warm shave. Bearded one must stay. Of all the tracks, "Tell Me All Again" is that shot of rum that warms that pit in your stomach and slowly spreads to your fingertips. It feels good; take another sip. All ten of the beast's chimerical tracks are reverent trughts spoken in music and lyric.
While the beast's chimerical guise is revealed in songs like "Darlin," which is perhaps the most heartfelt denouement a monster has ever produced, some eccentricities do exist. In "Soldier," an appropriate anti-war harmonica whines Dylan-esque. In "So Leave Then," the walking bass holds hands with some added steel drums, providing a Kodak moment for the touching tropical pot-smoking contingent…or those who just like sunset walks.
Produced by beast-tamer Ron Saint Germain (Sonic Youth, Tool, Bad Brains, and 311), The Exit certainly shows promise in its first full-length album. Home for an Island was released just last week on Some Records. While it is a young chimera, I am scared of its inherent fury, yet I am compelled to pet its head and feel its musical fur. It bites my hand at every listen. Do not feed the beast. Let it eat you alive.
- Ethan Kuhlmann
IN YOUR EAR
The Exit's last album, New Beat, was merely excellent, blending punk tropes with blue-collar rock; it was a competent, catchy work that probably everyone missed. Home for an Island, however, is light-years beyond it. The band has improved in every measurable sense. Their by-the-numbers riffing and shameless borrowing have been completely superseded by a tremendously evocative, constantly changing sound that suggests the past while pushing the future. They use bizarre effects and atmospherics in equal doses with straight-ahead guitar-drum-bass interplay, and the singing is sometimes earthy, sometimes ethereal - and sometimes both, somehow.
The opening of "Tell Me Again" is one of the record's more spectacular moments. The guitar plays a simple start-stop riff, but overdriven and with tons of echo. The drums come in and fill in the spaces, then the bass plays a surging melody underneath the whole thing. Once they've built up a heady momentum, they ease back off for a meandering verse. The song seems to almost struggle with its own potential, before the chorus finally takes off in stunning, satisfying fashion.
Of particular note is the band's newfound obsession with island nations and politics. "Home for an Island" begins "I left my home for an island/where rebels fly in on airplanes," a decidedly more-subtle-than-usual criticism of foreign policy, swimming in delayed and flanged guitars with jet engine whooshes panning across the speakers. "Let's Go to Haiti" appears to be about Haiti, though the lyrics are oblique enough that what the song is actually getting at is anyone's guess. "Italy" may have something or nothing do with the oft-beleaguered government of the once-proud European nation, but the band makes it clear that "Men don't like their fortunes told/Men don't like their hearts cut out." "Back to the Rebels" is The Exit's take on the business end of music: "It seems like when we get something special/they buy it up and sell it back to the rebels/I don't like it any more than the next/Man, you know I just do what I can." However, what this song has to do with "a talking cat named Coco" is anyone's guess.
At any rate, The Exit's songs blend some distinct reggae flavor with their own rock tastes and a lyrical sense sharp enough to discuss social issues without preaching. The whole package speaks distinctly of The Clash and without one iota of hyperbole. I don't quite have the breadth of experience to properly describe it, but Home for an Island is packed with energy and force and is not to be missed.
- Jason C. Jones (Rating: 9/10)
Home For An Island
NYC's The Exit is a band with a really big record collection, a really diverse record collection. Well one could assume that at least. Bands that came to mind on the first spin, U2, Quicksand, The Police, Karate, and any pick of a handful of 70's hair rockers. This is another one of those cds that takes you a few listens to really get into, to really understand all the complexities of what's going on. Once that door opens for you, and your in, its quite a nice place to be. (KM)
People have bad-mouthed many a band for sounding like another band, yet sometimes when the band evolves to their own sound, they get bad-mouthed for changing. It's quite hypocritical. Saves the Day comes to mind as an example immediately, because people always say, "I liked them better when they were Lifetime rip offs." Personally, I have liked all of their phases, but perhaps I could be guilty of this with The Exit.
The NYC trio's first album, New Beat was almost anything but, giving a big nod to The Police, borrowing their recognizable reverb & echo enhanced guitar and grooving reggae-style basslines. But then there were other tracks that were more pop punk, something closer to the first Midtown album than The Police. I loved those songs on New Beat, they were just so damn catchy. I liked the Police style stuff too, it added something other pop punk bands weren't and it kept the album from becoming repetitive. Now the band is growing up and growing out of their direct influences, and I sorta wish they'd go back.
The grooves are still aplenty, and I love the booming bass synced up with the bass drum, and it doesn't seem as blatantly stolen from their 80's icons. So that's good I guess, but on the other hand, gone from the album are the "Scream and Shout" rocker-type songs of New Beat. There are barely any tunes I would consider upbeat, giving the album almost the opposite problem that they previously avoided by my mixing grooves with pop punk; what I mean is it's ALL groove and not much rock. Sure, the band seems to have found their own sound, but I prefer the last album. Perhaps this is a necessary middle album between finding their sound and making that truly great album. But that's not to say this current album is all bad.
"Don't Push" lets any fan know immediately that things have changed, with it's tribal feel from the tom-filled beat and shakers, with it's standard booming bass now joined by a bassy synth line, and guitarist Ben singing rather than bassist Jeff. (I believe Jeff sung everything on New Beat.) "Tell Me All Again" has a bit of the rocking of the past, but is still a bit slow for the most part and the melody is not as catchy as songs like "Worthless" off the last disc. "Back to the Rebels" pays off where "Tell Me All Again" doesn't, and while it is still very groove-oriented, the chorus picks up and has a catchy melody. It also happens to be another one sung by Ben. "Let's Go to Haiti" is up to the speed of their last album (perhaps why Some put that as the mp3 sample on their site) and while it is a decent song, no one will be fooled by the lack of the band's old pop hooks in it.
The pair "Darlin" and "So Leave Then" are the most Police sounding songs on the album, and two of the best. Especially the latter, with its reggae beat and bassline it begs you to sway along, and the soft vocals of Ben (the last of his three vocal appearances) are easy enough to sing along with the first time: "You say that / You're leavin'/ So leave then / So leave then." Plus it has a steel drum part, and while it is most likely faked on keyboards or sampled, is still awesome and works great with the song. The band makes one more surprise turn with "Soldier", a ballad with simply acoustic guitar, vocals, and harmonica, but it is just ok.
So congrats to the band for spreading their wings a bit, but please, we loved you for your great hooks and your ability to rock out as well as groove. I don't think there is a need to fully regress, just find a way to get those elements back in a little more often. Home for an Island is still an enjoyable listen and must get a decent score for being a unique sound among today's indie/punk crop.
The expectations for bands you have never heard are almost always low. They have that special advantage on their side. See if you have heard and love a band, all they can do from now on is disappoint. So when you pop a cd in for the first time of an unknown band and you realize they are unleashing the most godly sound ever, it punches you right in the throat. I love that feeling. Sadly, it happens like once every blue moon. For every 50 Yellowcard, Simple Plan, or Atreyu rip-off band, you get one like The Exit. The Exit is plain and simple the truth. I can't believe I just stumbled onto this band by accident. And just so you know, they are absolutely nothing like the aforementioned Yellowcard, Simple Plan, or Atreyu. And for that you can thank god.
The Exit has been bumming around the NYC scene for a few years a released a critically acclaimed album in 2002 called "New Beat" but by and large stayed under the radar. They have even played over 300 shows in the past two years. All of this should be changing, and soon. They enlisted the help of producer Ron Saint-Germain (Tool, Sonic Youth, Bad Brains, 311) to aid them in showcasing their maturity, poise, and intelligence for the new album. They dabble in 80's dub and reggae with 90's punk and indie rock as well as the widely expanding space rock genre. All of this helps them create an almost indescribible sound. For a band I fully expected to suck, this was just an awesome suprise.
The new album is called "Home For An Island" and is 10 tracks and 40 minutes of bliss. I had trouble getting past the opener "Don't Push." Basically because it is one of the most amazing songs of the year. It instantly reminded me of Dredg, with the outer space riffing and tribal percussion and rhythm. Singer and guitarist Jeff DaRosa croons "Kiss of Death on your door, that's what you get for taking home a whore." Tell em' like it is Jeff, don't pull no punches!! I mean seriously, this stuff is enchanting. The other edge of the spectrum on this album is the likeness to The Police and The Clash. There's lots of reverb, echo, and that reggae groove basslines. Tracks like "Let's Go To Haiti" and "Darlin" reveal the limitless boundaries to their musical landscape. There are a few dull points on the album, but I'd be a prick to complain. This is mellow, funky, dancy, punky, spacey, and everything you need in an album by an unknown band from an unknown town. This was one of the finds of the year. They may be Home For An Island, but my goodness I hope they don't stay gone long.
-Adam Roncaglione (4/5)
On the surface, The Exit appears to be no different than most other bands receiving notoriety in the NME. They're from New York. They're a "the" band. And they've been compared to Television and U2, two bands whose mark can be seen on the hides of many a successful rock band. Yawn.
But then I discover that singer Ben Brewer's mom has a history of acting and singing in musical theater, having been in Hello, Dolly! and, even more remarkably, Shaft. Upon this discovery, my hope for some sort of musical theater version of Interpol was enclosed in Home For An Island's jewel case. Just imagine what Paul Banks would sound like, tackling Rodgers and Hammerstein! Or The Strokes covering Oklahoma! Now there's an idea.
Unfortunately, like mother, not like son. Broadway didn't make its way on to The Exit's sophomore album. But before you get all disappointed, walk away and put Rent in your CD player, hear me out. It's probably better off that The Exit sounds nothing like musical theater. And, furthermore, even though they haven't strayed far from simple rock songwriting, they're pretty darned good at it.
Home For An Island is the product of a band who listened to a whole lot of U2 and The Police and decided that neither were loud enough for their tastes. On Home, The Exit play a hybrid of rock, new wave, reggae and shoegaze that packs a punch, but frequently reminds one of the effects-laden guitar work of The Edge. However, Ben Brewer sounds nothing like Bono. Rather, his voice has more in common with The Mars Volta's Cedric Bixler-Zavala, the singer of another band that The Exit occasionally sounds like.
Opening track "Don't Push" sounds something like At the Drive-In covering The Police, marrying pounding beats to a reggae-like rhythm. "Home For An Island" and "Italy" owe a lot to the aforementioned U2. "Back to the Rebels" is straight-up seventies rock that, oddly, has more in common with Thin Lizzy, which might explain Ted Leo's fondness for the band. "Let's Go To Haiti" unapologetically kicks ass, in spite of its deceiving title. And "Soldier" is a tender acoustic ballad, because, really, every good album needs one.
The only weak spots on the album come in the middle, when things start to veer in a direction no band should head toward. "Darlin" takes the reggae-rock vibe a little too far, almost to the point of 311 territory. And "So Leave Then" includes some steel drum leads. Ugh. Luckily album closer "Already Gone" grooves enough to make up for these two tracks.
The Exit may not be the Broadway rock I was hoping for. But then again, that just sounds like a horrible idea, despite the amusement I find in it. Home for An Island is a fine rock record on its own, and we'll just forget all about that musical business.
Sparta - Porcelain
The Police - Zenyatta Mondatta
Jimmy Eat World - Bleed American
Escape From New York
[Exit] Jul. 24, 2004
By Matt Schild
"The first time we played the song ‘Home for an Island,' we were on tour with Strike Anywhere. We were in Cleveland and we were watching America invade Iraq at 9:00. We're watching our country go into a war that we all knew was wrong, that the world didn't support," confides The Exit's guitarist Ben Brewer. "We got up on stage and were like ‘This is a new song. It's called ‘Home for an Island,' and … fuck, we're at war.' That just happened and that's a very vivid memory for me."
These are heavy times, and few bands have felt the weight of the past two years press down upon them like The Exit. Brewer and band mates, singer/bassist Jeff DaRosa and drummer Gunnar, for the most part have grown up as a band amid the wreckage of Sept. 11 in their New York hometown, the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent worldwide and domestic political fallout. To say the world weighs more heavily on the trio on its latest, Home for an Island, due out Sept. 7 from Some Records, isn't an understatement. Things have changed in Exit land, and it shows in its music. Rather than the Police/Clash amalgam of the band's debut, New Beat (2002, Some), the band breaks into a fierce, fiery sound forged using everything from the genre-chomping punk ethos of The Clash's Sandinista! and heavy Jamaican dub to the freewheeling grooves of classic funk and straightforward rock'n'roll. Home for an Island doesn't turn its back on the band's punk roots as much as it grabs it, bends it up, files off a few corners and uses it as a framework for the trio's rapidly expanding world view. Anyone who crossed paths with The Exit earlier should brace himself or herself for a shock before popping Home for an Island into the stereo. This is an Exit that watched the world around it, learned from its time on the road and is ready to send its blues to the people special delivery, wrapped up in a heavy-hitting, deliberate and poised new take on the Jamaican/punk/funk blueprint. Considering the raves the band drew on its first platter, the jump in sonic evolution is quite an accomplishment. Brewer's equally adept at accentuating his band mates' heavy rhythms with laser-guided riffs that smoosh Mick Jones and Prince's legacies into a single package in "Don't Push." DaRosa and Gunner team up to check acrid, smoky dub with a rumbling bass line and purposeful drums on "So Leave Then," while the act downshifts to simple acoustic rock in "Soldier," while "Italy" lets the band show its rockin' side without loosing touch of its appreciation of the ever-present groove. With powerful tracks piled up one on top of another, it's impossible to feel as if there's a missing link in The Exit's sonic evolution - Home for an Island is just that big of a step forward from New Beat. It's easy to fill in the blanks in the band's stylistic development, however, with a look back on its past couple years, most of which were spent touring.
"We wanted to get (New Beat) out there as much as possible because we believed in it," Brewer says. "That was almost two years touring on that record. We kept getting these offers; it was like a carrot in front of a horse." As any band that's spent a considerable amount of time on the road can attest, nothing fast-forwards a band's professional development like a stint on the highways. Two years of near-constant touring gave The Exit the opportunity to hone their skills. It also gave the band members the inspiration and motivation to turn up the heat and forge their chops.
"We did the whole tour thing and now we're a very, very solid live band," Brewer explains. "We just try to put everything into it and try to have fun. When you're driving 12 hours to play 30 minutes of music, you don't want to fuck up. Because of all that, when you do that and take that much time on the road by yourself, you become a different type of thing. We could have just chilled out in New York and we could have done that, but I don't know what kind of band we would be. It's just a natural process. We realized that every show we'd play, we'd be a little bit better."
As any devotee of punk rock knows, technique will only take a band so far. What really counts is passion, experience and a first-hand familiarity with the ups, the downs and all the quiet moments of being alive. You'll be hard pressed to find a better way to tap into your guts like getting the hell out of your bedroom and seeing the world. Outside the chance to perform on a nightly basis, the road also offered The Exit an invaluable opportunity to explore themselves and the guys and chicks drinking in the clubs each night while the band explored the American countryside.
Of course, between sleeping on fans' floors and 12-hour interstate drives, touring also gave the trio a lot of time to reflect on everything from its interactions with fans to the big, political picture. Without the all-important drive and the time to soak up, process and integrate the conversations, observations and education the road provided, The Exit wouldn't have been able to make the leap between New Beat and Home for an Island.
"I think we took in a lot more experience," Brewer reflects. "There's just a lot of other things going on in the world. When we made our last record, Bush was the President but the world wasn't nearly the way it is now, where a lot of the fucked-up shit going down is in front of your face, rather than hidden. Now America doesn't stand in the world as a symbol of pride. We're totally hated. We fucked ourselves. We went from Sept. 12, being totally praised. The world wasn't excited for our president because they saw the people weren't excited for him, but on Sept. 12, the world was like ‘Oh my God, this country just got screwed.' The world emphasized with us. Then, we went and made a war up for the oil industry and the benefactors of all those seriously rich evil dudes." Not as many people enjoy the luxury of reflective time that The Exit's touring schedule gave it. Even if they did, however, it's debatable how many would heed the call. With a neck-and-neck presidential campaign gearing up, Brewer knows that America's getting ready to head into one of the largest ideological clashes since the Vietnam War.
This time out, however, there's as much a battle over who controls the facts as what the facts themselves mean. In an age where restrictions on ownership of the media have been all but erased, a handful of companies control nearly every source of information that reaches peoples' ears. From Clear Channel and Infinity's stranglehold on the airwaves to Gannett and Time Warner's control over print and online media, getting a story that isn't filtered by a major corporation's interests is quite a challenge. No wonder swaths of the audience just don't bother.
"I think that the people are being undereducated and kind of paralyzed," Brewer says. "You have to understand that a lot of what you see on T.V. and a lot of places where Bush has a lot of support, the local newspaper, the television they're watching is painting a different picture of reality, similar to the way the New York Post paints a totally different picture of everything that happens. How awesome was it when the Post was like ‘Dick Gephardt is John Kerry's Vice President'? I'm walking around that night like ‘He did not pick Gephardt! That's bullshit!' Then the next day it's ‘Oh, It's Edwards.' That was just a beautiful, royal fuckup. That is how they report the news.
"It's hard right now because the world is being homogenized," he continues. "People's freedoms are being taken away from them, but it's freedoms they don't realize they're being taken away because the consumer's level is so huge. They're still free consumers, they think, but the bottom line freedom of press is slowly being taken away, the freedom of knowledge is being taken away. It's not really a fair debate."
That's where the underground needs to step up, and The Exit knows it. While Home for an Island doesn't settle wholly upon political issues - Brewer's keen to point out that it deals with issues of love and loss as much as the politics of the terror state - it's a call to arms for listeners. Joining a host of punk acts, The Exit raises the bar on the scene's political commentary. Don't think that their efforts are going unnoticed.
"I think that the rock'n'roll community knows what's going on," Brewer says. "There hasn't been an influx of political, political songs, which I think is all right. When Michael Jackson tried to come out with that 9/11 song, it was totally annoying. I think that people are more conscious and there is definitely a revolutionary mindset that's starting to take place as the election grows nearer and nearer. I think the country's still divided." Maybe that division has its up sides. Home for an Island feeds off the tension, the foreboding sense of ill will and the clouds of discontent that settled upon the States since the Iraq invasion. These times, as Brewer knows, aren't perfect - few bands so consciously and effectively take those imperfections as fuel for a revolution like The Exit does on its new album.
Exit's strategy? Beyond punk. Stop the presses! I've found a Manhattan-based band that isn't glum and disaffected. The Exit is Ben Brewer, Gunnar and Jeff DaRosa, three city natives with parents who are either artists or entertainment business executives. While they started out as a punk band, they quickly moved on to other influences. On their upcoming release, "Home for an Island" (Some), they fuse the reggae-tinged pop of The Police with the glossy sound of early XTC into an appealing blend. Sunday night the band makes the first of two area shows in a month: The first will be at The Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey St., where it will open for Sahara Hotnights. Tickets are $15. For information, call 212-533-2111. On Sept. 8, The Exit will play the Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard St.; 212-219-3132