Reviews for A New Design For Living by The Stepford Five (June 2004)

Quote:  “unique layers of fuzzed guitars…on the verge of being awesome.”

Full Review:
In a city more known for football, the four-piece of The Stepford Five work to ensure that Columbus, Ohio, is steeped in indie rock culture on their third full-length release A New Design for Living. The band seems to pride itself on being a guitar rock band, though that aspect seems to be simply part and parcel of the whole product. Meshing guitar work by Keith Jenkins and Jason Dziak, the eleven songs here do offer unique layers of fuzzed guitars lurking about. Yet, the composition is not necessarily beyond what you might expect from a talented indie rock band with songwriting experience. Though the characterization may be fair, the Five is further highlighted by strong melodies, harmonies, and catchy songs. What strikes me is that they seem to be on the verge of being awesome, but aren't quite there yet. Like you want them to change some part of a song or wish they would go somewhere else, but they don't deliver on the tantalizing morsel. This may be most specifically seen on the initial non-descript "Failure to Communicate." Drummer Mark Kovitya-penned "Ted Hughes" is a refreshing change in sound as the band utilizes slower melodies, strings and simple thoughts. Besides from this slowed down number other standout tracks include "Recognition for the Lonely Ones," "The Company We Keep" and "No Use." Given the quality of this release and that these guys have been for a while, I'm surprised I've never heard of them before this.

Aiding and Abetting (June 2004)

Quote: “…what U2 might have begun to sound like if it hadn’t cheesed out with The Unforgettable Fire…the Stepford Five gives me the smackdown I deserve.”

Full Review:
Minimal liners. No need. Let the music speak for itself. And it most surely does.  Grand, arching punk anthems. Math guitar lines meet emo structure and just plain rock and roll power. For reasons that I don't care to explain fully, this makes me think of what U2 might have begun to sound like if it hadn't cheesed out with The Unforgettable Fire and beyond.  Yes, I'm a mean, picky, snot-nosed music critic kind of a bastard. And the Stepford Five gives me the smackdown I deserve. Most bands with a punk background (I'm guessing that most of the band members have done some time in such an outfit) tend to prefer a simpler, leaner production sound. But these songs require the full power provided hereby Neal Schmitt. And they soar because of it.  The sort of "underground" album that is fully street-ready. I'd like to imagine a world where albums like this rule the charts. But if that happened, then how could I continue to feel superior to all those moronic idiots out there who don't know shit about shit? I'll just settle for being able to give a listen to such superior-good as this disc. That's enough for me. For now. (July 2004)

Quote:  “one of the better rock and roll albums to come out of the Ohio area in a while…go out for nice long freeway drive, roll your windows down, and crank this one.”

Full Review:
Imagine if a local band that you always thought were “eh, decent,” finally got their shit together and put out a great record that is astoundingly well produced. The Stepford Five is kicking ass all over the place on what is, in my opinion, one of the better rock and roll albums to come out of the Ohio area in a while. I don’t consider it a put down to say that they’re not trying to do anything more than rock here, slightly edging in with the almost math-rock sound that helped make Braid noteworthy. There are a few quieter and slower-paced tracks, like the lyrically creeping “Ted Hughes,” but even those songs manage to rock just enough to trickle right in and flow with the rest of the record. Unfortunately, I’m sure some pretentious reviewer will turn their nose up at this record for being “overproduced,” but they can eat it. Even my dad likes this record. Go out for a nice long freeway drive, roll your windows down, and crank this one. (August 2004)

“something here for all…melodic anthems, mid-tempo riffage…chiming, discordant guitars a la Sonic Youth.”

Full Review:
Ah, good old-fashioned hard-edged indie guitar rock. On their 3rd full-length CD, Columbus, Ohio's The Stepford Five (of whom there are 4, so they've got one up on Ben Folds Five) play it consistently heavy, but with a great amount of variety. There's something here for all kinds of heavy-guitar fans: melodic anthems, mid-tempo riffage, and bursts of Helmet-style metallic math-rock or chiming, discordant guitars a la Sonic Youth. There are also some tuneful embellishments like a cello here and a vocal harmony there. Singer-guitarist Keith Jenkins' voice is appropriately hoarse and weighty, and the rhythm section drives solidly through varying tempos and time signatures. The production overall is clean and immediate, a couple of the songs having been recorded live in the studio.

On a personal level, this didn't resonate with me as much as it might have, say, 11 years ago, so I don't think it will make it into regular rotation on Radio Mike, but if this is your sound then this well-done album is definitely a worthy addition to your library.