Caroline’s Spine: Overlooked (self released)

If you’re new to the Spine, then all the songs will be new to you—and they’re beautiful, solid songs, every one worthy of a few listens.

Caroline’s Spine is, hands down, the greatest unsigned band around today. They parted ways with Hollywood Records after two solid rock releases, 1997’s Monsoon and 1999’s Attention Please, then released Like it or Not on their own in 2000, a 20-song gem with songs from their early Anza albums as well as four new tracks. Now, finally, there is a new Caroline’s Spine album, a fact which I was eagerly anticipating. There’s only one problem, though: much of Overlooked isn’t new. Of the 12 tracks, only half are making their first appearance in the Spine library; of the others, four were the new tracks from Like it or Not (though, to be fair, they have been reworked for this disc) and two were only on the European release of Attention Please.

Maybe I should back up. Perhaps you haven’t heard of them, but Caroline’s Spine have a very rabid fan base, extremely passionate about all things Spine: the band members (singer Jimmy Newquist, guitarist Mark Haugh, bassist Scott Jones, and drummer Jason Gilardi), the music, the concert tees, and, most of all, the concerts themselves.

But back to the CD at hand. If you’re new to the Spine, then all the songs will be new to you—and they’re beautiful, solid songs, every one worthy of a few listens. And if you’re already a dedicated Spine fan—well, then, enough said. How else can you own the new material?

Overlooked begins with the relationship letdown “End Up With You”; one listen and the haunting guitar hook is caught in your head. Newquist, who has an admittedly strong and versatile voice, shows new depths when he repeats, “No, I don’t end up with you” on the refrain. “July” is another song of apology, a common theme throughout the disc. Another theme is represented by the title track, a gentle ballad on which Newquist sings of making dreams happen: “And the world may never know my name/It’s OK, it’s all part of the game…/But I leave my mark in the blood and sweat/and I live my life with no regrets/so I hope in heaven, I won’t be overlooked.”

The patriotic images of “Soldier Song” introduce the third subject of Overlooked: growing up and independent while still seeking parental understanding. Later, on “Quarter Century New,” Newquist expresses this desire: “I hear you no matter what you think/because I know there’s good in all your preaching/what I am I got from you/but you need to learn how to listen to me.”
“Angels” is a good hard rock song with enough smooth edges to please the discriminating listener, as is “Never Left,” with beautiful harmonies followed by storming guitar; “Please Let Me Go” is an acoustic dream, and “Like it or Not” merits cranking up the volume and singing along.

Had Overlooked been all new material, I’m certain it would have made my top five list for 2002; instead, it’s a glimpse of Caroline’s Spine’s newer material—essential nonetheless, but not fully satisfying to one already in possession of a full Spine library.

Overlooked is available from both www.carolinespine.com and www.bandmecca.com.

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