Album Review: Extreme Measures' "Extremities"
Some say that Radiohead's Kid A was the most important album of a generation. Other music aficionados declare that the Beatles were the best band or that Sam Cooke was the best singer modern music ever saw. These debates have raged for years and will continue far into the future, but nobody doubts that all of the aforementioned artists look and sound like tone-deaf taintfaced 12-year-olds playing "Louie, Louie" at a midday suburban block party when compared to the debut album Extremities by the renowned a cappella group Extreme Measures. Founded four years ago by Dan de la Torre, Extreme Measures follows in a long line of successful, talented, and unbelievably peppy a cappella groups here in Evanston ever since the Northwestern University School of Music dean Peter "That dude who won't stop belting Journey covers in Burger King at 1 am each Saturday" Lutkin popularized a cappella in America with the founding of the A Cappella Choir in 1906. Extremities is the exquisitely angelic culmination of a year of recording by the group (with production by Ben Lieberman), and is the greatest thing that my ears have had the good fortune to hear since "Born to Run" on vinyl. Featuring covers of acclaimed artists like OneRepublic, Gavin DeGraw, Yellowcard, Christina Aguilera, and the Backstreet Boys, Extremities has the power to transport you to a wondrously magical time in your life -- right around 6th grade -- and keep you there until the album finally ends, an experience you won't soon forget.
The enchantment starts right from the beginning.
There are certain moments that occur right at the opening of truly great music: the rimshot before Dylan launches into "Like a Rolling Stone;" the riff of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" that channeled every conceivable emotion of a generation; and that moment when the beat finally drops in Beethoven's 5th Symphony all immediately come to mind. But the opening line of Extremities, a cover of Yellowcard's "Breathing," is so stunning that it immediately warrants consideration as one of the best album-openers of all time. In the first few bars, Extreme Measures already establish themselves as the most illustrious a cappella group in America since four insufferable pricks from Yale first donned tuxedos and formed the Whiffenpoofs -- who incidentally only have the second-most obnoxious name among a cappella groups at Yale.
But what makes this album so bewitchingly radiant is the caliber of the rest of the tracks furnished by Extreme Measures. Stunning and sublime songs like "Brand New You," "I Don't Want to Be," and "The Call" all exhibit more pop sensibilities than if Hall & Oates got together with Huey Lewis to cover Rihanna's discography. Each of the ten songs are probably catchier than the hypothetical musical lovechild of Michael Jackson and Will Schuester, and any random song you select will display more technical virtuosity in a three-minute auditory frenzy of delightful harmonies and resplendent melodies than John Coltrane could ever hope to produce in an entire gig. The vocal percussion is ravishing, production on the album is supurb, and the vocals mesh in only the most tantalizingly mesmeric combinations that make your heart (and groin) go pitter-patter.
Clearly, upon my first listen of Extremities I experienced a slight tingle in a particular extremity of my own. But multiple listens of the album can prove invaluable, providing a deeper sense of the true meanings behind Extreme Measures chipper vocals. In "The Voice Within," for instance, the line "dum dum dmmmmmmm da da" subtly hints at a hidden darkness lurking in the hearts of man, which we all feebly try to cover up by surrounding ourselves with material goods and unsubstantial romance, while in "Ignorance" the interplay between lyrics about how much Hayley Williams likes change and more incomprehensible lines like "sjaw dot du chaut jot sjaw dot du chaut jot" evoke the inner turmoil that can arise in your soul when former loved ones start treating you like a stranger.
When the album comes to a close with "Sound of Silence," you will probably be left with only your thoughts about the astounding beauty you just experience and a pool of your own urine -- an unfortunate side-effect of aural pleasure as powerful as that produced by Extremities. Luckily, this predicament can easily be cured by purchasing more copies of the album. Scientific studies have already determined that owning a copy of Extreme Measures' Extremities will make you five times cooler, six times more intelligent, and last at least 12.78 minutes longer in bed.
OVERALL RATING: Drip drip drop there goes an eargasm
Extremities by Extreme Measures can be purchased from iTunes HERE.