30 Odd Foot Of Grunts - Other Ways of Speaking
1 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Aug. 4, 2003
Review by Tony BonyataIt's not usually a very pretty sight when an actor turns rock star. Recent cases in point include Keanu Reeves (Dogstar), Kevin Bacon (The Bacon Brothers) and Billy Bob Thorton. While none of these artists plan on quitting their day jobs anytime soon (after hearing their music you'll know why), they still manage to find enough time to play out their rock star fantasies, much in the same way that musicians such as David Bowie, Sting, Madonna and Ice Cube have all had a go at acting in major films. Seems that the grass is greener on the other side of the Marshall stacks, as well.
You'd think that being a mega movie star would be enough to make any one artist satisfied enough, but apparently donning suits of metal and fur on his way to a Hollywood-scripted Roman bloodbath isn't enough for actor Russell Crowe. But while most associate this rugged Australian with acting first, he's actually been performing in his own Sydney-based band 30 Odd Foot of Grunts since 1992 - long before he was a household name for his starring roles in the big screen blockbusters "Gladiator," "Proof of Life" and "A Beautiful Mind.
On their latest release, Other Ways of Speaking, Crowe and fellow Grunts deliver fourteen largely-forgettable songs that are based in the blues / folk rock tradition, with the emphasis leaning a little heavier towards middle-of-the-road rock for this outing.
But with a dry vocal delivery that at times poorly mimics a latter day Dylan, with more sterility and less soul ("Painted Veil" and "Never Be Alone Again," which is given a lift from The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde's powerful duet), and at other times ("Inside Her Eyes" and "Swallow My Gift") sounding more reminiscent to a young Elvis Costello, it seems that Crowe has yet to find his own voice on record.
The compositions, which range from blues rock ("What's Her Name?") to gentler acoustic folk rock ("Other Ways of Speaking") do little, however, to establish this band as an interesting musical entity. There are a couple of moments where the band does pick up a bit of steam, as demonstrated on "Mission Beat," even if the the rubbery guitar-line and slack-jawed beat has been lifted directly from Beck's "Loser," as well as a roadhouse rave-up of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." But, unfortunately, these moments are too far and few between to warrant repeat spinnings.
"You're ten-foot tall and bulletproof," croons Crowe on "Unfaithful Man," but while this may very well apply to himself on film, on record he's going to need a lot more protection than his metal breast-plate from Gladiator to save him, and us, from this type of mediocrity.
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