Music Review: The Hopescope ''Bring In The Sun''
Date: Saturday, October 11, 2003 @ 23:30:00 UTC
Topic: Music Reviews


Tortured by the role strain created by his neurotic need to please people and his ethical duty to give an honest opinion, Mitch Phillips' personality splits right down the middle in a temporary manifestation of review-induced schizophrenia. The Hopescope's "Bring In The Sun: A Five Year Journal" chronicles five years in the life of songwriter Eric Empson and his long journey from west-coast wanna-be to a self-realized soul. From unrequited love to the bottom of a bottle, Empson's musical diary is full of hard knocks. But where he eventually finds grace in The Divine, Mitch's altar ego only finds solace in the soothing sound of the waves.



Band: The Hopescope
CD: Bring In The Sun: A Five Year Journal
Year: 2003
Label: Marathon Records
Produced by: Jeff Elbel
Band Members: Eric Empson - lead vocals tracks 1,3,6,9 & background vocals, guitars; Brian Richardson - lead & background vocals, percussion; Robert Kandell - bass, keyboards; Wally Segienda - keyboards, background vocals; John Barber - drums, percussion.
Additional Musicians: Jeff Elbel, Josh Ramsey, Nick Amoroso, James Wilke, Megan Elbel & Edward Christie III



Bitch: What's the matter with you? Time for a bad one, eh?
MITCH: (looking around) Huh? Who’s that?
Bitch: Don’t be an idiot. It’s your critical conscience. You know, that voice inside your head that rarely makes it to print anymore?
MITCH: (sighs) Listen, Im not in the mood...
Bitch: Tsk...don’t be a wimp.
MITCH: I don’t need this. Why are you here?
Bitch: To make sure you don’t pull your punches. You’re getting too soft. (Snottily)“Hi. I’m Mitch Phillips and I like everything!”
MITCH: Hey, I’ve been really lucky lately. What can I say? Super Model-t, Immigrant Blue, Space Nelson....the submissions have been amazing!
Bitch: Puh-leeze. You’’ve only been reviewing what you like! That’s easy.
MITCH: Hey, If you don’t have anything nice to say,
Bitch: ‘...don’t say anything at all ?’ What is this, Sunday school? Somebody’s gotta do the dirty work around here. Toughen up for chrissakes. What have we got?


MITCH: It’s a band out of the Ann Arbor area called The Hopescope.
Bitch: Nice name. In fact, a slogan comes to mind: “The Hopescope: because having hope in this world requires a very narrow point of view.“ What do you think?
MITCH: That’s really cynical.
Bitch: I like it.
MITCH: The disc is called “Bring In The Sun”. And the subtitle is...
Bitch: There’s a subtitle? What is this, The Book of The Month Club?
MITCH: The subtitle is ‘A Five Year Journal’
Bitch: Ah, so that’s why you've cracked. You don’t want to dis’ anything with that much time and energy invested. What’s the big deal? We’ve wasted more time than that on internet porn.
MITCH: At least the band has something to show for the last five years of their life. I’ve got you.
Bitch: Yeah, me and hairy palms. Just put the disc in the player and lets ‘Bring In The Sun’ as they say.

MITCH: (looking at CD cover) Nice package. Duo-fold six-panel insert, 4-color printing on both sides and on the interior tray card. They wanted to do this right. You have to respect that. They spent some money on this.
Bitch: Thirteen grand it says on the website. You can buy two Hyundai for that kind of money. They’re having a sale.
MITCH: That’s about what it costs to put out a first-class DIY record these days.
Bitch: (track 1 begins) Ouch. I’ll take the Hyundai. What was that intro sound? Was that rain? No, no, It sounded more like the guitar player didn’t ground his amp (mimics electrocution) Zzzzzt-zzzzt! Smells like teen spirit.
MITCH: Cool slide intro, though. The guitar sound is really compressed.
Bitch: Really squashed is more like it. Tom Scholz would be so proud. What’s this one called?
MITCH: Blinded by the Scene (reading lyrics) Looks like another story of L.A. disillusionment: Boy meets L.A. Boy is seduced by L.A. ...
Bitch: ... L.A. bitch-slaps boy and sends him back to the Midwest where he belongs.
MITCH: Something like that. It’s a rock & roll rite of passage. I like the lyric, ‘ All the stardust turned into smoke before my very eyes / Quick cash, noir trash, I was hypnotized’...’
Bitch: Ok, I’ll give you that. But the music is... It’s like Boston meets Cheap Trick - without the exceptional voices of Bradley Delp or Robin Zander to save their asses. I’ll pass. Next...

MITCH: This one is called, “Cancer on our Love”
Bitch: (laughs) Are you serious?
MITCH: Serious as cancer. (Track 2 begins) There’s your rain sample.
Bitch: That rain sounds like eggs frying. Now I’m hungry, damn it.
MITCH: Nice drum work here. I like the snare trills on this track. Drummer’s name is John Barber. Reminds me of Steve Gadd playing on Paul Simon’s “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover”.
Bitch: Way # 51 - Tell her you've been diagnosed with Cancer on your Love.’ That should do it. Next!

MITCH: This song is called “What is the sound of one heart breaking?” Obviously a wordplay on the popular zen koan.
Bitch: It's a song about a sound that isn't really a sound at all. It’s a Meta-Koan. Get it?
MITCH: No. (looking at lyrics) It looks like it’s about a surreptitious affair and unrequited love.
Bitch: Huh?
MITCH: He busted her with another dude because she doesn’t really love him.
Bitch: Oh, bummer. So it’s an “I Scream Koan” eh? (Track three begins to play) The guitar is flaccid. So that ‘s the sound of one heart breaking, eh? My heart’s breaking just listening to it.
MITCH: The vibe is dark but I kinda dig the back-ups... (mimics singing) “oh - oh - oh - oh - oh - oh”.
Bitch: Sounds like the army choir of the Wicked Witch of the West. Next!

MITCH: Track four’s called “Letting Go”.
Bitch: Paul McCartney has a song called “Letting Go”. It was on the “Venus & Mars” album. Man, I miss Linda McCartney. I’ve always been a sucker for artsy plain-Janes. I cried when she died. Did you know that?
MITCH: What do you think? That “Letting Go” was about putting a girl on a pedestal. This one’s about about a girl putting his head under a pedestal and jumping up and down on his ego until her insults are indelibly stamped into his temporal lobe.
Bitch: Brutal! Really?
MITCH: And I quote, ‘“You’re going nowhere, “ she said.’ ‘ ”You make a great impression....But it doesn’t last.” ‘
Bitch: (laughing) Oh, man! What a bitch!
MITCH: He ends the song with the words, “My trampled ego isn’t worth saving.” Now, are you volunteering to add to this guy’s misery with a bad review?
Bitch: Until now, I thought you were The King of Self-Deprecating Confessions. I stand corrected. But the vocals are pretty wimpy...
MITCH: (groans) here we go...
Bitch: (sings “Letting go / I need to let go” with sarcasm) It’s like feeble whining from a passive-aggressive loser; a feckless nerd who falls in love every time a woman asks for laundry change. You know the type.
MITCH: He’s gonna have rhinoceros skin and ice-cubes running through his veins by the time he recovers from your insults.
Bitch: Consider it my contribution to his artistic survival.
MITCH: That’s big of you. How about some constructive advice?
Bitch: Ok, he needs to write a song called, “Your a heartless bitch and I’ll have my revenge - with your little sister!”
MITCH: So, what you’re saying is the music is too weak for the lyrical content? That there's a lapse in tone. Is that about right?
Bitch: No. Weren't you listening? What I’m saying is grow some balls. Next!

MITCH: (Track 5 begins. The sound of guitar harmonics fills the office) This one is called “Harmonic Solitude!”.
Bitch: (sarcastically) Ooooh (sonorously) HARMONIC SOLITUDE! What does that mean exactly? Let me guess; a lonely, misunderstood guitar player pines for love from the safety of his bedroom studio. Am I close?
MITCH: You’re an ass.
Bitch: Question: What do you call a musician without a girlfriend? Answer: Homeless and hungry. That one gets me every time!
MITCH: Uh, I don’t think he’s looking for a girlfriend this time. In fact, you’re probably not going to like this.
Bitch: What then, a boy? Is our protagonist switch-hitting now? They say homosexuals are “IN” this year. Don’t you watch TV?
MITCH: Less and less. No, that’s not exactly it either.
Bitch: Wait just a second...did I hear the “J -Word” in there? (In the voice of an evangelist) Did I hear the name of GEE--uh -ZUS on this GOD-FORSAKEN record! Can I get a HAL-LAY-LOO-YAH from my brethren? Addendum: What do you call a musician without a girlfriend? Answer: A Christian Rocker.
MITCH: OK, that’s enough.
Bitch: What?
MITCH: Don’t diminish an act of sincere vulnerability. Surrender to a higher power is the first step in self-realization and the highest calling for a human animal.
Bitch: It’s the first step in recovery, too. Ok, now I’m thirsty.
MITCH: I seem to remember you crying for the intervention of a higher power at least once in your pathetic life.
Bitch: (Looking at the inside tray of the CD cover) Why didn’t I see this before? There’s a picture of The Bible open to some yellow highlighted text. Can you read what it says?
MITCH: No, it’s too small. But it’s somewhere just before the chapter on Peter. (Pulls a bible from the bookshelf and blows off the dust) I’m not sure what part he highlighted, but it says here, ‘Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed...’
Bitch: Ok, I’m a self-loathing, overly-critical, onanistic, procrastinating loser. Wow, you’re right! I feel so much better.
MITCH: ...and it says here, ‘...he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.’ And, “For the time (has) past...when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquettings, and abominable idolatries.’
Bitch: Yeah, party’s over pal. Turn off the MTV. For what does it profit-eth a man to be featured on “Cribs” yet surrender his soul? There are no rock stars in Heaven.
MITCH: No critics either.
Bitch: Amen.

MITCH: (Track 6 begins) This one’s called “Passion Rock”.
Bitch: You know you’re in trouble when a song begins with a “Cheering Crowd” sample.
MITCH: Yeah, I think cheering crowds should be left to live recordings. Maybe they’re trying to be ironic.
Bitch: That’s hoping for too much. This one has all the passion of a used tissue, if you know what I mean.
MITCH: You’re just sick and wrong. There is a BIG STADIUM SOUND and a BIG ROCK & ROLL ENDING though. I like the processed back-up vocals. Haven’t head that since Mr. Roboto ended Styx’s career.
Bitch: Yeah, but the drums sound like a drunken tap-dancer wearing hollow clogs. What happened to Steve Gadd?
MITCH: I blame Alex VanHalen and all that talk about playing ‘behind the beat.’
Bitch: Yeah, blame the blind guy. NEXT!

MITCH: This one’s called “Disbanded”.
Bitch: Finally, some good news.
MITCH: No, the lyrics are really good. It’s about leaving the cover gig to pursue your dreams.
Bitch: Sometime you should just leave the cover gig and become a plumber instead, ya know?
MITCH: (reading lyrics) ‘Late nights loading gear / my clothes reek of smoke and beer / And I’ll wake up and do it all again / Playing much too loud / for a lost and hopeless crowd...’
Bitch: Hey, I know that place! It’s The Catalina! Or as Scotty Potty used to call it, The Cat-arrhea - because it always inspired the watery feces in us.
MITCH: You're really disturbed. And it’s called The Arena now.
Bitch: Strong drinks, loose women and Rock & Roll. Good times, eh?
MITCH: Alcoholism, STDs and Crappy Covers. Hard Times is more like it.
Next!

MITCH: This one’s called “From The Bottom Of The Bottle”. It’s about alcoholism ...
Bitch: Finally, something I can relate to.
MITCH: ... and a desperate plea for salvation.
Bitch: ...or not.
MITCH: He writes, ‘Just get me through this night / replace this hollow heart with You’
Bitch: Just give me some cold porcelain and a bowl in which to spew...
MITCH: ‘...Thank you, Father God / I’ve made it through the storm...’
Bitch: ...but I won’t be coming to church tomorrow, which is pretty much the norm...
MITCH: Knock it off! This is serious stuff and I think just about every musician who’s done their time on the circuit can identify with the desperation in this song - including you. Why does the mention of God in rock music make you so uncomfortable?
Bitch: Sublimation is only cool if there’s leather involved.
MITCH: That’s really sad.
Bitch: That’s pop culture, baby. Next.

MITCH: This is the title track, “Bring In The Sun”. I dig the dual guitar intro on this one. The contrast between the acoustic guitar and the electric guitar with delay works really well. I think we’ve got something here.
Bitch: Yeah, yeah. So what. So it’s not a total loss. Big deal. One song in five years.
MITCH: The harmonies are smooth, its got a groove, texture, mood, depth and even an unexpected element - a church bell. Nice touch.
Bitch: Good Lord.
MITCH: Yeah, and He gets a credit in the lyrics too. Whaddaya know? Divine Inspiration really does help.
Bitch: Now you’re capitalizing “He”? God help us. Can we move on now?

MITCH: Track 10’s called, “Put Your Hands Together.” Strong guitar intro followed by percussive attacks from the rhythm section...
Bitch: ...promptly followed by a chorus of wimpy vocals. Why does Christian rock have to be so damn wimpy?
MITCH: It’s not wimpy. It’s just nicer. But Eric Empson’s strength is definitely in his lyrics. ‘Seven years at sea / All alone with me / Invisible to humanity / A little conversation was my only wish / but the silence is golden when you’re catching fish ...’ That’s some good stuff in any genre.
Bitch: Yeah, especially the ever-popular Fishing Rock. Ok, nice words but wimpy vocals.
MITCH: See how crass you’ve become? You wince at something that’s just plain nice. We’ve got a perfectly good rock song here about finding a glimmer of hope in a dismal world and you feel compelled to tear it down. Why?
Bitch: To be cool and popular, of course
MITCH: You’re hopeless.
Bitch: Am not! In fact, right now I’m hoping this is over really soon. Next!

MITCH: Track 12 is called “Music is The Language of God”
Bitch: Let’s hope He’s multi-lingual. Now I’m capitalizing ”He”.
MITCH: Again, cool guitar intro...
Bitch: ...followed by a contrived melody and more wimpy...I’m sorry, I mean wistful vocals. Sounds like Divine Inspiration is as fleeting as secular inspiration. It’s not A-Muse-ing? Get it?
MITCH: No. Are you finished?
Bitch: I was finished after the first fifteen seconds. What am I supposed to do with the remaining eight minutes and twenty-five seconds? Recite the Ten Commandments? That’s a lifetime for a rock song. Have a little guitar with your reverb, dude. Next!

Mitch: That’s it.
Bitch: Thank Go...I mean great!
MITCH: ..........wait a second...
Bitch: Now what?
MITCH: Hidden track.
Bitch: Hidden track? Isn’t that just for The Devil’s music?
MITCH: It’s an instrumental with a recurring guitar decrescendo. I like the accordion keyboard patch and the sound-of-the-seashore sample. It’s comforting, aint it?
Bitch: The sound of waves is putting me to sleep.
MITCH: Then it’s the best track of all. Nighty-night.







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