Stories from the city — one new, one old

New York is home to rock legends and experimental upstarts. New York band Coheed and Cambria, new on the scene, has released a saga-CD while city flame The Strokes – last year’s headliner – just put out is sophomore release.

Coheed and Cambria

“In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3”

What’s a Coheed? Who’s Cambria? Coheed and Cambria (CO & CA) is a band whose musical complexities are surpassed only by the ambiguity of its message. Unlike much of the rest of the modern music scene (all genres included), the New York-based quartet has no blatant, prophetic message to share with its listeners. They don’t have “the remedy” so many other artists advertise, they don’t feature the guitar licks of Carlos Santana on their singles and they don’t think much of Stacy’s mom.

In other words, CO & CA’s sophomore release, “In Keeping Secrets.” won’t be played over the speakers of Eickhoff Hall cafeteria. Instead, the band’s songs are written as a soundtrack to the online sci-fi adventures of married couple Coheed and Cambria. Confused yet?

Musically, the set-up isn’t original: guitarist and high-pitched singer Claudio Sanchez switches between progressive rock singing and hardcore screaming over a plethora of fast, crunchy guitar riffs and odd time signatures. However, these combinations create something of an audible holy grail: a new sound. The album begins with a familiar progressive sound, reminiscent of Dream Theater.

In “Three Evils (Embodied In Love And Shadow),” four-chord pop punk is brought to a musical level unsurpassed by its creators, and by the end of the song listeners are singing along to the words, “Pull the trigger and the nightmare stops.” (Of course, CO & CA explicitly mention in the liner notes not to take the lyrics literally, as they are part of a story).

Then the album begins to take a retro turn. “Blood Red Summer” and “The Velorium Camper I: Faint of Hearts” sounds like what once was considered modern pop back when CO & CA listeners’ parents were listening. The album then continues with a strong progressive rock theme until its completion, a ballad of sorts called “The Light & The Glass.”

What makes Coheed and Cambria worth listening to is its outrageous, ingenuous mix of all pop music’s better features (come on, admit it, radio music can be catchy sometimes) with the challenges of progressive rock. The songs are catchy but hard enough to be categorized as “angry music.” However, this is not what makes Coheed and Cambria so different from modern bands.

Coheed and Cambria do not write about the problems of the world, ex-girlfriends, or how much the government sucks. All the lyrics, as incoherent and deranged as they may sound, tell the story of Coheed and Cambria, a sci-fi adventure.

The band will continue to release albums chronicling the saga, although not in chronological order. Hence, the band’s second album is named, “In Keeping Secrets.3.” Other chapters of the story will be released annually.

The Strokes

“Room on Fire”

Some more well-known New Yorkers, The Strokes, recently released their sophomore album. Anyone who is familiar with its first album, “Is This It?” may have mixed feelings about “Room on Fire.” The album clocks in at 33 minutes for the normal price, making listeners pay nearly 50 cents a minute.

However, if new listeners and old fans can get over the brevity of the experience, “Room on Fire” provides yet another repertoire of tinny drums and raspy, lovable lyrics.

“I Can’t Win” replaces the band’s first hit, “Last Nite.” Songs like “Between Love and Hate,” “You Talk Way Too Much” and “The End Has No End” can be added to the endless list of songs about heartbreak. This time even the broken-hearted will bob their heads to them.

In short (to overanalyze a band whose simplicity is its greatest feature would be a sin), if the Strokes’ first album sufficed, “Room on Fire” is a sure win. However, if its previous release left much to be desired, the new album’s listeners may find themselves asking, “Is this it?”