Champ de Mars – Back From The West
Champ de Mars is a group founded by singer-songwriter David Emerick, who has been an active front-man of various alternative and indie bands in the California area since the nineties. The most successful of his groups, Bellstar, worked the bay area for a solid eight years and released two albums. After Bellstar, Emerick moved to the east coast and focused on solo material. He has since released two additional albums and has written a novel titled, The Silent Year.
This project, Champ de Mars, which takes its name from a park located in the center of Paris, is somewhat of a creative compilation between musicians that Emerick has worked on and off with over the years. Their debut EP titled “Back From The West” was released at the start of 2016 and is available for free on the band’s website. Emerick currently resides in Washington D.C.
This is a low key but rather big sounding band of which I am new to, and it rocks with just the right amount of message and influence of a time when lyrical topics took digging down deep to understand, which always gave a song more depth. But they make no mistakes conveying that without identifying everywhere they’re drawing from for influence. The CD kicks off with proof of that much with “All Hail The Has Beens,” to back this theory. And it starts off with one of the bigger sounding tracks, of which two to choose from among three other tracks that are less edgy. This gets the word out right away that they have much influence to be felt. And some of that is described in the lyrics which talk of old bands that now still resonate but don’t dominate in media circles. This also shows some guitar chops that add more of the 70s & 80s feel to it, while the vocal tones ring of more 90s quality.
Even the next track “X Marks The Citizen” has some of that same vibe but takes on a more modern theme. There are several bands they’re clearly influenced by and on this track there is a “Matchbox 20” sort of vocal that follows more of a “Verve” style than the previous track which sounds a decade older in influence. This is great but also suffers from going all over the place. So, it gets a better shot as second to the opener, but it’s just as good of a song any day of the week. I like the interaction between the guitars and the rhythm section. It deals a lot with blaming JQP for the misgivings of society. That gets you past the harder stuff and leads into “Western Evaporate,” and things go into more eclectic territory with a smoother outcome. This is probably the most original track on offer. But it’s a hard call because there isn’t any songwriting that really suffers here, to be honest. But that is a taste call, more than anything, of course. If you don’t like the guitar on this or the overall hook, then you’d be hard to please if you like rock. Don’t get me wrong, this is no perfect animal but it’s still a compelling track.
“American Static” falls more in the vein of the previous two tracks and mentions the great northwest, so naturally this is more akin to my interest. The song itself is complex but more lighthearted and almost gets a commercial tag if it were not for the lyrics. This contains everything that is good about “Back To The West” and goes far in defining the EP title itself. “Wasted on the wasteland of a song” is where he goes in his lyrical delivery and that also helps with defining this song. It contains some great picking and a smooth melody line to add some great lyrics to. I would consider this the overall bets vocal.
It’s important not to lose sight of where all this is going as you take it in, but an EP is usually not enough to go the distance a band can go, and it loses a point for that lack of effort. A lot of bands scream budget on the full album format but if it is knocked out in a short amount of time it seems to me more like haste making waste. It has nothing to do with the music but it’s a factor that still can’t be denied and should be properly mastered at all cost for any self-respecting project. While this is not their worst it is by no means the best they can pull off. But they manage to come on clean nevertheless on this one.
The EP ends with “The Gospel OF Dystopia” which wraps it all up together with some more electronic influence on this repetitive and downing but also groovy piece that tops it all off well. This is a moody track with some of the same elements but it is also where they show some growth apart from the static norms of rock, and almost goes into a more progressive sound. This is as good as anything on here, if a tad different enough to keep you interested.
It’s not very often you come by this anymore, really. It harks back without losing any current relevance. It might not be easy to do but they pull it off without any apparent fuss and bother.