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Crashings - Falling Up (2004)

It has often been argued that getting one's big break in the music world is equal parts raw talent and personal connections. While such a premise is debatable, those holding such a view could certainly point to the hard rock sextet Falling Up to make their case. Formed by vocalist Jessy Ribordy and guitarist Tom Cox during their freshman year in high school, the Albany, Oregon group spent several years touring with longtime friends and fellow Albany natives Kutless. Eventually, the members of Kutless took it upon themselves to pass a Falling Up demo to BEC Recordings owner Brandon Ebel, who signed the six-piece to his label in mid-2003.

Musically, the better portion of the debut record, Crashings, is built around a lively metal/hard rock hybrid. The terse rhythms and soaring guitar work of the leadoff track, "Bittersweet," fall somewhere between the plaintive emo rock of Brandtson and the groove-intensive alt-metal of Linkin Park. The softer-edged "Escalates," on the other hand, pulls from the infectious, pop-tinged post-grunge of acts like Tonic and Third Eye Blind. "New Hope" and "Jackson 5" feature impressive forays into rap and reggae territory. And "Broken Heart" is buoyed by the sort of chunky, slightly dissonant guitar textures that most '80s pop-metal bands would have given their last can of hair spray to own.

Lyrically, the group alternates between the straightforward and slightly oblique, often within the context of the same song. The obscurely worded verses of the first radio single, "Broken Heart" ("In this moment, synchronized inside / Words that paint a legacy of life / Sifted times, I take another breath"), for example, are reminiscent of Michael Stipe's cryptic murmuring on the first few R.E.M. albums. The simple, clear-cut language of its refrain ("Father / Healer / Deliver me from broken love"), on the other hand, sounds like something that might have been lifted from a modern worship chorus. Elsewhere, Ribordy and his cohorts achieve similarly impressive results, applying this same clear-cut/indirect dichotomy to themes ranging from materialism to romantic love.

To be fair, the group occasionally wanders into musically generic territory. And songs such as "Falling In Love" ("You are my one true love / You are my wings to fly / You are the wind beneath them") highlight the band's intermittent lyrical struggles. That said, the Falling collective's infectious combination of funk, riff and melody delivers the goods far more often than not, providing an impressive selection of well-crafted, radio-ready singles. And, with towering, arena-sized anthems like "The Gathering" in the lineup, one has little trouble imagining the group's live shows as anything but utterly rousing affairs. To be sure, even at its most familiar-sounding points, Crashings sports a tense, driving energy that carries it nicely through the occasional rough patches and places it firmly in the ought-to-own category.