Midwest Soul Xchange (MSX) is a duo that hails from, well, the Midwest. Their debut album is entitled 'New American Century'. Advertised stylistically as Americana, MSX doesn't limit their repertoire to Americana, tossing in progressive rock tunes, folk rock and country rock songs. Vocally, MSX is vaguely reminiscent of Crosby, Stills and Nash, only MSX doesn't pull off the harmonies as well.
MSX hails from a small town in Wisconsin, called Chippewa Falls. The town's claim to fame is that it's the birthplace of Seymour Cray, the supercomputer dude and his company, Cray Research. Coming from a Midwestern town of about 13,000 inhabitants, it's fitting that the duo composes Americana music. Unfortunately, it's not very good Americana music.
The album contains eleven tracks. The first track, 'Set A Course For Common Worlds', replete with guitar, accordion, drums, harmonica and twangy harmonies, has a strong melody, which is good. The bad is the shrill vocals. They simply don't complement the melody.
On the third track, 'Truth Attention', MSX tries their hand at some Pink Floyd-like prog rock. The intro is promises something unique, but once the vocals kick in, the melody assumes a chopped up feel. When the chorus arrives, the vocals revert back to a dreamy, prog rock sound that should be the primary melody, but isn't. Because of the back and forth, split personality of the song, the tune jars the nerves.
'Revolt of the Guards' is a folk-rock number, protesting greed in America. Heavy drums drive the song, emphasizing the prevalent menace of monetary lust. Lyrically, the song has a point; musically, it's a jumbled mess.
Possibly the best song on the album is 'Has Anybody Seen Bob', a fun country rocker with Herman's Hermits-like vocals. An amusing, extravagant melody bops along as the lyrics relate the story of Bob, whom no one can find. It's a bit silly, but it is fun and the twangy vocals are almost non-existent.
The final track, 'Four Score and Seven To Go', presumably a paean to America's heritage, is pure Americana music. In fact, there appears to be a conceptual theme running through all the songs on the album, regardless of style: a historical overview of American history from Christopher Columbus to the present day.
'New American Century' isn't terrible. It's simply featureless to the point of being barely mediocre. Frankly, MSX shows the most promise as a prog rock band. They would do well to drop the Americana tag and go with a more progressive musical style.
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