Subscribe to SoundAffects
email list:

Follow SoundAffects1 on Twitter



CD Reviews: Ivory Wire
Ivory Wire: The World Is Flat
September 2003
By: Matt Boltz
album cover of Ivory Wire's The World Is Flat

Ivory Wire would have been hard pressed to choose a more fitting name for their debut album than The World Is Flat. As veterans of the national rock scene from their days as Dovetail Joint, the Chicago-based rock quartet has learned a lot about what works and what doesn't work in the music industry. Perhaps the album's title reflects coming full circle in the music business: Starting out as young, inexperienced musicians (thinking the world is flat); evolving into a band signed to a major label with a national hit song (discovering that maybe the world is actually round and their first impressions weren't necessarily the truth); and now starting over with a new repertoire of songs, a new focus, and enough experience to be able to bring the songs to life in the exact manner in which the band envisions them (realizing that maybe the world really is flat, and taking matters into their own hands again).

Although Ivory Wire is a new band, there is no denying the members' experience as songwriters and performers on The World is Flat. In addition to the obvious duties of writing and performing the music, the band also handled the technical aspects of making the album. Chuck Gladfelter, the band's songwriter, vocalist, guitarist, and keyboardist, tackled the recording and production duties along with lead guitarist Robert Byrne. Ivory Wire's lineup is rounded out by bassist Jon Kooker and drummer Henry Jansen, both of whom were in Dovetail Joint with Gladfelter and Byrne and are accomplished rock and roll veterans. Gladfelter handled many of the recording and production duties in the latter stages of the Dovetail Joint days, and combined his technical experience with his songwriting skills to eliminate much of the red tape involved when making a record. By doing things themselves and bringing the songs to life in exactly the way in which the songs were envisioned, Ivory Wire has created a debut that sounds more like a fourth or fifth album.

The songwriting is solid throughout the album, with rich textures, varying dynamics, diverse tones, and lyrics that cut through the music to reveal vivid and often striking imagery. Just Like I Remember It is one of the many examples on the album in which Gladfelter uses distinct images to convey the message of the song. Lyrics such as: It's kind of like morphine back in the bloodstream and I'm like an addict back at his habit's call / It's the cravings / It's just like I remember it may give an initial impression that the song is about drug use. However, upon closer examination it becomes clear that Gladfelter is merely using addiction as a metaphor, perhaps to describe the feeling of being taken back in time and place by seeing a picture or hearing a song and reliving the corresponding memories that are evoked. Gladfelter establishes the metaphor with lines such as, Just close your eyes to take care of everything / No matter if it's been too long / You can go back, just hearing that certain song. Not every song relies on metaphors; the stirring To the Very Marrow is a very direct song about the impact that John Lennon's death had on the songwriter and how it is something the writer remembers clearly to this very day, despite being just ten years old at the time. Gladfelter offers a very personal view in this song and makes no attempt to disguise its true meaning, with unmistakable lyrics and audio snippets of media coverage of Lennon's death and even an audio clip of Lennon himself. I was just ten when the news came in / I remember the day, December 8. . . There has been a crime, and the man who changed your life / Well today that man has died. He continues, conveying to the listener how influential Lennon was to him, Years have passed, times have changed, but it still remains the same / Some things strike so deep as to affect the lives we keep. . . After all these years / It means more to me today / The songs still play.

The music on The World Is Flat is often a perfect complement to Gladfelter's lyrics. The opening track, Hey You, immediately grabs the listener's attention with its upbeat, crunchy guitar, bass, and drum riffs. As Dovetail Joint fans will quickly notice, Byrne adds well-crafted guitar parts throughout the album that often soar above the rhythm. Ivory Wire does an excellent job of incorporating catchy riffs into many of the songs, even the slower tunes like Promise to Burn with its abundance of keyboards and acoustic guitars. The band did a good job of ordering the tracks, following the rocking, up tempo Backfire with the slower, quieter Promise to Burn, but then bringing the listener back with the catchy, rocking Just Like I Remember It, and positioning To the Very Marrow immediately after A New Kind of Low and creating the impression that the songs blend together. The closing track, Monterey, is an entrancing eight-minute song that lulls the listener and sets up the rocking opening track perfectly for those who listen to the CD in repeat mode.

The World is Flat is a solid debut album for Ivory Wire, on which Dovetail Joint fans will find the imagery, dynamics, and in-your-face rock and roll to which they were accustomed. Fans who are checking out the Ivory Wire lineup for the first time should expect to hear the band's energy, passion, musical ability, and knack for combining catchy music with thought-provoking lyrics.