02. Quiet Mouth Loud Hands
04. Image and Able
05. Teacher, Preacher
06. Weights for the Watching
08. Blinding Sir Bluest
11. Trading Grins
2008 Equal Vision Records
Witnessing a talented band make an obvious effort to jump into the spotlight of pop music might be one of the most depressing sights within the independent music community. Damiera showed much promise with their debut record, M(US)IC, as it combined warm guitar licks, progressive songwriting, and an uncanny ability to present the catchiest of melodies in the unlikeliest of time signatures. The band is back with Quiet Mouth Loud Hands, and one listen is all it takes to evoke the obvious question: what happened
To a small extent, Damiera hasn't lost all of the engaging qualities that made M(US)IC such a surprisingly enjoyable prog-rock record. "Nailbiter" and "Image and Able" still retain some of the syncopated rhythms, upbeat bass lines, and catchy hooks of old. "Woodbox," an instrumental number with electronic-tinged beats and layered acoustic guitar work, succeeds on that same foundation of slightly off-kilter time signatures and bright melody. Even "Silvertongue" could have been pulled off of the last record as it packs in explosive energy, innovative guitar leads, and a well-crafted instrumental climax. But unfortunately, getting to these moments requires the listener to wade through an undeniably thick stream of shit en route.
Tracks like "Quiet Mouth Loud Hands" and "Blinding Sir Bluest" display frontman Dave Raymond's newfound love for Michael Jackson-esque vocals, complete with sharp staccato vocal lines and a generous helping of unwanted sass. "Teacher, Preacher" will enrage those expecting innovative rock music due to the fact that it sounds identical to the dreadful pop output of Maroon 5. And the electro-rock experimentation of the album closer, "Trading Grins," is unimpressive at best, oddly sharing a few similarities with the Dillinger Escape Plan's recent spotty attempts at such a style. The remainder of Quiet Mouth Loud Hands is stuck in limbo, uncomfortably falling between the band's previous prog-rock leanings and an unsettling pop mentality, thus resulting in a number of listenable, but extremely bland tracks.
But maybe it's unfair to compare this record with M(US)IC. Last year saw 75% of Damiera's line up call it quits, leaving Raymond to reassemble the group. And with Quiet Mouth Loud Hands as evidence, all signs point to the fact that this is just a different band, despite Raymond's continued position as lead songwriter and frontman.
It's also interesting that a record with such strong pop influences and goals was self-produced and engineered. The common assumption when a band converts to a mainstream sound is that there was a push from the label or producers for a more marketable record, yet it appears that Quiet Mouth Loud Hands was crafted in an environment devoid of such pressure. Nevertheless, this record must be summarized with a reminder of an unwritten but widely known law within the independent music scene: It is in no way, shape, or form acceptable to create a record that contains a song that is completely indistinguishable from those by Maroon 5. It never has been. It never will be. End of story.
Bottom Line: This isn't the same Damiera that shined with innovative prog-rock on their debut record, M(US)IC. A few of the inventive leads, interesting rhythms, and engaging songwriting mentalities still appear in Quiet Mouth Loud Hands, but they're overshadowed with a strong pop influence that ranges from forgettable to downright frustrating. Recommended for fans of musical letdowns and occasional embarrassments.