Boulder rock band The Amends are taking the concept of concept albums to an ambitious new level over the next few months. We’ve got a preview of the first track for you to steal right now!
Concept albums are a risky endeavor for a rock band. The Beatles, The Flaming Lips, Arcade Fire and David Bowie have all released concept records that are significant moments in rock. But man, when a concept album fails, it fails spectacularly. Does anyone remember the KISS album “The Elder,” a concept record with lyrics co-written by Lou Reed? No. And it’s best we keep it that way.
So, when Boulder rock group The Amends announced a few months back they were releasing a multi-media, multi-art form work called “The Ruins of Tropicalia,” there was a bit of concern mixed in with the admiration.
The story itself is a mystery because, well, the story is a mystery. Based on the the trailer, we are told that a group of Americans travel to Central America, not know the truth about why they are there. A corporation is planning to turn the peninsula where they are staying into a retreat. There’s war, a disappearing civilization, and an exciting adventure somehow involving The Amends vocalist Tyler Taylor, who compiled the story from the personal accounts of the Americans that had this experience with him.
The mystery is enough to catch attention, but the full scope of the project is what’s really impressive. The story is serialized in 21 video installments, with two videos released each week starting tomorrow. The Amends will also release an accompanying track once a week, and there is a full literary text to go along with the movie and the music. All of this is aggregated on a dedicated website that also features a mobile app for following along.
Clearly, this is way more than a concept album. This is a hugely ambitious art enterprise.
So, in most cases, the best concept albums are unified under a them, like the suburbs in the Arcade Fire case. Otherwise, when the album is too adherent to a story, it runs the risk of coming off forced, even corny.
Until tomorrow, when the first video installment is released on the website, we can only experience ‘The Ruins of Tropicalia” with teasers on the website. And we have the first single, “Reappear,” available for download below. It’s a solid track that upholds The Amends strong rock footing. If you didn’t know that the song was a part of a massive project, it would stand well on its own. And that gives great hope that “The Ruins of Tropicalia” will be a fun adventure, and not a KISS-worthy misstep.
Please note that downloads offered via Steal This Track are intended to whet your appetite, and are NOT CD-quality recordings. If you want those, please support the artists by buying their music and/or seeing them live.
If you’re a band or musician ready to expose your fresh sounds to the readers of Reverb, email your tracks — along with any interesting facts about them, as well as a photo or album art — to Steal This Track for consideration.
Josh Johnson is a Denver freelance writer and Reverb contributor. He’s also a journeyman butcher. Seriously.