Matty Wise takes it to the limit (page limit, har har) on Kiyoshi Graves’s 2006 release, Chase.

Kiyoshi Graves, Chase (2006), Indie Rock

Things looked good when I read under Kiyoshi Graves’s myspace account that Radiohead was one of his influences, since lyrically and musically few have ever garnered more respect from me than that band. Perhaps that last piece of information went to my head a little because for the first two listens through of Graves’s Chase I decided to play Counterstrike on my recently returned sexy machine of a computer. Bad idea. Aside from “Fag”, “God I’m so drunk”, and “Fire in the hole!” taking over the guitars and vocals, I was much too focused on the game to actually pay any attention to the fact that the album had repeated twice through. It finally occurred to me during the map change that maybe two hours was a bit too long for an album. Moral of the story: Don’t listen to Kiyoshi Graves while playing Counterstrike.

The album Chase was released in 2006 and it is Kiyoshi Graves’s first full length. It delivers a conventional rock sound that is neither particularly challenging nor too simple as it is layered with sonics and an organ. A lot of songs start off with some nice guitar riffs that sound extremely promising, but then they pull back, playing background to Graves’s voice. An unfortunate decision. While Graves does have a strong and pretty nice sounding voice, it just doesn’t seem unique enough to be the focal point of the music. The guitars seem to go into autodrive once his voice enters, strumming uninteresting chord progressions. The vocals themselves sound somewhat monotonous, very rarely rising into another registry, and when they do the sound is predictable.

Kiyoshi Graves is a bit of an enigma to me. I’m not a big fan of his musical styling, but after listening to and reading the explanations of his lyrics, I really like the content. In “The Greatest Thing” Graves sings about an imaginary conversation that a daughter and her recently deceased father had encompassing everything they wished they could tell each other. “Reckoning” shows the humanist that he is, and while not explicitly political, it helps to show his feelings about the state of things in our world right now. “Finish Line” writes of the importance of others pushing him to succeed. And so on. The problem, I think, is that there is no real focus. He leaps from one topic to another. It’s really strange to listen to all these uplifting songs, and then suddenly get slammed with an ending like “Letter” that is pretty damn bleak, albeit one of the better and less conventional songs.

I wish that what he did was stick with one of the concepts he had in two of his songs. In the songs “Chase” and “Found” Graves sings about an imaginary movie playing in his head, all inspired from a dream he had where the villains weren’t really villains, and they were pursuing something like the meaning of life, and were lovers (possibly gay? It was hard to discern the gender of the two, though he referenced them by guys), and were being chased. If that explanation was confusing, you can just read it for yourself on his website. The songs are more about the interaction of these two characters, and I think it would have been awesome if he had spread it into a full length album (after all, his album is named after the theme song of his “movie”). So while I wasn’t particularly a fan of his music, I’m hoping in the future he will focus more on one of the many ideas running through his creative head, and expand upon it. Just like Radiohead, the first album was anything but perfect, but from it evolved an amazing sound, and I think with a little more creativity from his instruments, a little less emphasis on his vocals, and a solid focus Graves can make something great.

matty wise