February 16, 2001

Tantric Can't Keep It Up

Print More

By all rights, grunge should be as dead as the crazy Australian guy who gets bit by a snake on those FedEx commercials. For every post-grunge superstar like Creed, there’s a dozen bands like Fuel or Days Of The New struggling on the edge of popularity. Grunge is certainly no longer the fast route to success that it once was back when Eddie Vedder was a sex symbol and Justin Timberlake was still a Mouseketeer.

In 1997, grunge latecomers Days Of The New had a string of hard rock radio hits with their eponymous debut, despite the fact that all of their songs seemed to be based on Alice In Chains’ “Rooster.” But even the band’s unlikely success apparently wasn’t enough for ambitious frontman Travis Meeks, who quickly fired his backing band and recorded a second Days Of The New effort in 1999 as a solo project.

Now, Meeks’ old band has returned. The band, renamed Tantric, consists of drummer Matt Taul, guitarist Todd Whitener, and bassist Jesse Vest, with the addition of Layne Staley-soundalike Hugo Ferreira. Amazingly, though the group is basically Days Of The New with a different vocalist, they manage to sound fairly different than Days. Tantric’s sound is much more full-bodied than Meeks’ more delicate efforts.

But despite the differences between the two bands, Tantric is still at heart a grunge band. The music on their self-titled debut sometimes approaches Pearl Jam’s crunchy guitar pop, and at other times leans closer to the jangly, folky air of the members’ former band. On the driving opener “Breakdown,” the lively guitar intro and Hugo Ferreira’s emotive growl force you to take another look at the CD booklet just to make sure you’re not in fact listening to a new Travis Meeks album. But the band quickly breaks out of this brief tease and delivers a heavy rocker, complete with an anthemic chorus and raspy vocals.

The next two songs also skirt ably around Days Of The New territory, with likely single possibility “Live Your Life (Down)” being far and away the high point of the album. But by the time the slow, throbbing “Paranoid” comes on, perfectly capturing a moody, macabre atmosphere with its heavy bass thump, you’ll likely have forgotten any connection to Travis Meeks’ more anemic guitar rock.

“Hate Me” even attempts to expand the band’s sound by incorporating a banjo, in a surprisingly successful experiment.

But other songs, like the trite “I’ll Stay Here,” fall far short of the mark. Overall, what this album proves is that Meeks would have been wise to keep these guys on, since they can write some good music.

On the other hand, Tantric’s lyrics have suffered without Meeks’ heartfelt contributions — there’s hardly a meaningful couplet on this entire record. So while this is an acceptable grunge rip-off — and it’s certainly better than that god-awful Days Of The New 2 — Tantric won’t keep you satisfied for as long as their name implies.

Archived article by Ed Howard