November, 2008, West Coast Performer Magazine
By Michael Fortes
Veering towards the new wave side of rock, San Francisco’s The New Up (as in “down is the new up”) has further spit-shined its sound with third release, Broken Machine. Jaimeson Durr, who helmed the band’s Palace of Industrial Hope full length (not to mention his work on sessions with Franz Ferdinand, The Killers and other big-timers), has given this five-song EP maximum punch, creating an artful sonic balance that’s miles beyond the typical indie-rock release and closer to something one might expect from a major label with money to spend.
Of course, this sound has just as much to do with the rock-steady rhythm section of drummer Jack McFadden and bassist Dain Dizazzo, flanked by lead vocalist/guitarist ES Pitcher, guitarist/vocalist Noah Reid and, the cherry on top, ornamentalist Hawk West on flute and “automation” (read: laptop). No, the flute never does take a lead role in The New Up’s sound, but rather it slides snugly into the mix, most effectively realized on “Just Because.”
Though Pitcher’s smooth, elegant vocals are well suited for upbeat numbers, the songs on Broken Machine follow a more serious path. Typical of the EP’s overall tone is “Libations,” which is less of a celebratory drink and more of an expression of disappointment: “A fading space that once was mine / a never changing point of view.” The music, however, tempers the words with slow-moving vocal lines and expert pop arrangements. Yet this is actually a double-edged sword that cuts the whole EP – the messages carried by the vocals tend to get lost amidst the music’s infectiousness. This would be fine for a band that writes silly lyrics simply for their musicality, but for a band like The New Up, whose music has been described as “an ontological Molotov cocktail for modern primitives,” they can easily afford to be more hard-hitting and emphatic with their vocal lines.