What happens when you are part of an established, kind of well-known (definitely well-known in all manner of independent music circles) band and one of your fellow members decides to take a break? Well, in this case, you start a "new" band and immediately begin writing an album. This is exactly what The Draft isÃ¢â¬Â¦Hot Water Music minus Chuck Ragan plus a replacement guitarist (Todd Rockhill, member of several Gainseville, Florida bands). So, when Hot Water Music officially announced its "permanent" demise The Draft was already out touring and recording their first album for Epitaph.
The result is In a Million Pieces. There are indeed many similarities between the songs that The Draft has created and those that they did while in Hot Water Music, but there are also a number of differences. Most of the songs are a bit slower in tempo. There is different instrumentation such as keyboards, horns, and such that are used over the course of the album. The musical arrangements are subtly different in places with syncopated beats and even some reggae flavor. The background vocals are also a bit new (as one would expect with a new guitarist and back-up singer). Regardless of these slight changes, the band still writes some damn good songs here.
"New Eyes Open" sounds like something that Hot Water Music could have done. It has the gruff vocals. The guitar style is there. It's pretty good, but it does not even touch on how good In a Million Pieces gets. The next track "Lo Zee Rose" is where The Draft really starts to show some of their new tricks. When the chorus kicks in, it sounds new and like a drunken bar sing along. "Let It Go" has a bit of a reggae influence by way of The Clash guitar riff and rhythm that is a bit of a shock coming from these guys. As the keyboard signals the beginning of "Bordering", I keep thinking that it is wholly unnecessary. I liked the demo version that did not have the keyboard. This is a good song however, one of my favorites on the record. It has a lot of Hot Water Music qualities but with a little more melody. "Impossible" has a unique vocal arrangement in the bridge of the song. It threw me off and almost demanded to be mentioned.
"Wired" is one of the biggest shocks to hear on In a Million Pieces. It is such a bouncy song it is ridiculous. It also has a horn arrangement, HORNS!!! At first they were subtle and just about inaudible and then I heard them more clearly. But here is the thing. They don't sound cheesy or ridiculous. They are just down in the mix the right way. "All We Can Count On" is easily the most unique song on the album. It has a slow, swing like tempo that has a country-ish feel. The chorus has that bar room charm in it as well. I really enjoy this song. "Out of Tune" is a total pop song. It has the hook. It is well written. It has a big hook. And the Wurlitzer organ is a nice touch as well.
The Draft put out a worthy album. In a Million Pieces has enough Hot Water Music elements and is just different enough to make the band name change or the new band label appropriate. It is a good record that is an enjoyable listen. I am glad this record is finally here. It was strange seeing these guys with Avail and people either not realizing who they were or just not caring. I think this record will change both those attitudes.