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ISSUE 118 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/15/2005

Cardinal Sin, an act of contrition

By Peter Farrell
Contributing Writer


Friday, April 15, 2005

The blood-splattered cover of the Cardinal Sin’s Oil and Water EP indicates two things: The Cardinal Sin sucks at naming things, but they have a sense of humor.

The band easily possesses one of the worst names in rock, rivaled only by the likes of My Chemical Romance, Yellowcard (they have a violin!) and Limp Bizkit (seriously, what does that even mean?). Furthermore, they willingly chose to utilize one of the most abused metaphors in the history of the English language as the title of their debut.

The Cardinal Sin’s sense of humor, however, offsets the band’s naming setback. These guys (and girl) may be unabashedly emo, but they do the “woe-is-me” song and dance with a knowing wink and nod in addition to all those tears.

Comprised of members from three different defunct Minneapolis bands – Cadillac Blindside, the Crush and Song of Zarathustra – The Cardinal Sin are veterans of the local indie-rock scene. The Oil and Water EP, in turn, reflects the maturity and sense of songcraft each band member has developed over the years. The Cardinal Sin know how to make an average chorus anthemic, old melodies fresh and keep their emo-esque heartache compelling.

Beginning with the vitriolic “Where We Shine,” the band immediately establishes the sound and tone of Oil and Water. Muscular guitars chug beneath the pop-punk warble of lead vocalist James Russell, while the slightly flat drumming of Rebecca Hanten and the unobtrusive bass of John Ness anchor the rhythm section. A fist-pumping “screw you” certain to empower even the most jilted urban lover, “Where We Shine” contains just the right shades of angst and melody. In the hands of a lesser band, Russell’s overwrought posturing might grow tiresome, but the Cardinal Sin manage to straddle the fine line between sincerity and slight theatricality.

Lyrically, Russell concerns himself with the three principle themes of rock ‘n’ roll in general: Women, the pain they cause and the concept of drinking as a catchall solution to said women and pain. “Woke Up in Pain” and title track “Oil and Water” are tightly-wound punk nuggets of anguish. The jagged, angular twin guitar attack is spare, heavily distorted and minimal. Why waste time on superfluities when emotions are so raw?

“Quarter-Life Crisis” rides a tense guitar riff and laments the loss of time: “Hey I don’t feel so young/Yes I know I’m not that old/I’ll always pout of time running out.” Russell’s lyrics may lack eloquence, but the direct nature of his approach matches the aesthetic sensibility of the band – direct and to the point.

The only real misfire comes with an ill-conceived attempt to cover the Replacements’ 1985 classic “Bastards Of Young.” The patron saints of Minneapolis indie-rock, the Replacements are fiercely revered and deified within the local scene, and for good reason. The messy, drunk swagger of the original “Bastards Of Young” perfectly captured the coming-of-age anxiety and discontent of mid-80s America, and, really, why muck with perfection? The cover is respectful and harmless, but completely unnecessary.

The almost monotonous gloom of Oil and Water is broken with “A Call For Help,” an endorsement of some decidedly emo advice: “Don’t quit when they say,” Russell screams, “it’s the best you’ll ever know.” The song stands out as a striking affirmation of life in the same vein as Modest Mouse’s “Float On.” Life may suck, but it doesn’t suck that bad.

One imagines that as much as Russell is writing “A Call For Help” for others, he’s principally addressing himself.

The Cardinal Sin is composed of scene-chiseled veterans who may or may not ever be anything more than local favorites at the Triple Rock or Dinkytowner. That doesn’t matter. The passion the Cardinal Sin has for playing their music is palpable. One is even forced to forgive – or at least appreciate – their terrible, terrible titles.

The band easily possesses one of the worst names in rock, rivaled only by the likes of My Chemical Romance, Yellowcard (they have a violin!) and Limp Bizkit (seriously, what does that even mean?). Furthermore, they willingly chose to utilize one of the most abused metaphors in the history of the English language as the title of their debut.

The Cardinal Sin’s sense of humor, however, offsets the band’s naming setback. These guys (and girl) may be unabashedly emo, but they do the “woe-is-me” song and dance with a knowing wink and nod in addition to all those tears.

Comprised of members from three different defunct Minneapolis bands – Cadillac Blindside, the Crush and Song of Zarathustra – The Cardinal Sin are veterans of the local indie-rock scene. The Oil and Water EP, in turn, reflects the maturity and sense of songcraft each band member has developed over the years. The Cardinal Sin know how to make an average chorus anthemic, old melodies fresh and keep their emo-esque heartache compelling.

Beginning with the vitriolic “Where We Shine,” the band immediately establishes the sound and tone of Oil and Water. Muscular guitars chug beneath the pop-punk warble of lead vocalist James Russell, while the slightly flat drumming of Rebecca Hanten and the unobtrusive bass of John Ness anchor the rhythm section. A fist-pumping “screw you” certain to empower even the most jilted urban lover, “Where We Shine” contains just the right shades of angst and melody. In the hands of a lesser band, Russell’s overwrought posturing might grow tiresome, but the Cardinal Sin manage to straddle the fine line between sincerity and slight theatricality.

Lyrically, Russell concerns himself with the three principle themes of rock ‘n’ roll in general: Women, the pain they cause and the concept of drinking as a catchall solution to said women and pain. “Woke Up in Pain” and title track “Oil and Water” are tightly-wound punk nuggets of anguish. The jagged, angular twin guitar attack is spare, heavily distorted and minimal. Why waste time on superfluities when emotions are so raw?

“Quarter-Life Crisis” rides a tense guitar riff and laments the loss of time: “Hey I don’t feel so young/Yes I know I’m not that old/I’ll always pout of time running out.” Russell’s lyrics may lack eloquence, but the direct nature of his approach matches the aesthetic sensibility of the band – direct and to the point.

The only real misfire comes with an ill-conceived attempt to cover the Replacements’ 1985 classic “Bastards Of Young.” The patron saints of Minneapolis indie-rock, the Replacements are fiercely revered and deified within the local scene, and for good reason. The messy, drunk swagger of the original “Bastards Of Young” perfectly captured the coming-of-age anxiety and discontent of mid-80s America, and, really, why muck with perfection? The cover is respectful and harmless, but completely unnecessary.

The almost monotonous gloom of Oil and Water is broken with “A Call For Help,” an endorsement of some decidedly emo advice: “Don’t quit when they say,” Russell screams, “it’s the best you’ll ever know.” The song stands out as a striking affirmation of life in the same vein as Modest Mouse’s “Float On.” Life may suck, but it doesn’t suck that bad.

One imagines that as much as Russell is writing “A Call For Help” for others, he’s principally addressing himself.

The Cardinal Sin is composed of scene-chiseled veterans who may or may not ever be anything more than local favorites at the Triple Rock or Dinkytowner. That doesn’t matter. The passion the Cardinal Sin has for playing their music is palpable. One is even forced to forgive – or at least appreciate – their terrible, terrible titles.





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