For many, Eve 6 is the sort of band where you’d recognize one or two of their biggest hits if you heard them on the radio, but probably wouldn’t recognize their name or the title of any of their songs (the former song always makes me laugh when it’s played at graduations, because it’s about a one-night stand). They’ve always been an intriguing band to me, though, because they have a sound that blends punk and alternative rock in an interesting way. They have the simple power chords and drum lines of punk rock, but also the cleaner, more buttoned-up sound of 90s alternative (think Gin Blossoms and Hootie and the Blowfish), an aesthetic enhanced by Max Collins’ lead vocals.
Eve 6 formed in 1995 and disbanded in 2004 after they were dropped from RCA records due to lackluster sales of their 2003 album It’s All in Your Head. Collins and drummer Tony Fagenson kept making music together in various side projects following the breakup, so it probably was inevitable that they’d eventually reform the band, which they did in 2007. Original guitarist Jon Siebels held out a little longer, but rejoined Eve 6 in 2011, just in time to contribute to Speak in Code.
Musically, Speak in Code is fairly simple and straightforward, as you’d probably expect from Eve 6. The drum lines are pretty simple, and the guitar lines don’t have a ton of variation either, though “Moon” features some nice acoustic and “Lion’s Den” features a watery-sounding guitar as Collins urges the subject of the song to “tear up your certificates and throw them to the sea.” “Downtown” also serves to remind us that yes, somebody does play bass in this band. The bass works in the background in all the other songs on the album, helping to create a nice groove in songs like “B.F.G.F” and “Trust Me.”
Simple music is okay if your lyrics aren’t repetitive, but for the first quarter of the album, they are. “Curtain” is a good enough opener, with a strong chorus in which the main character bids goodbye to a person or way of life. But the next three tracks are all variations on the same theme, where the main character lusts after some woman he can’t (or shouldn’t) have. Eve 6 does break out of this rut, though, and the rest of the album is enjoyable. The album’s lyrical themes, all very direct and straightforward, weave in and out from subjects like the crushing feeling of high expectations (“Lion’s Den”), to a prayer for guidance (“Lost & Found”) to a wistful reflection on someone who’s trying to turn their life around (“Pick Up the Pieces”). The latter song is a good album closer, waving a musical goodbye to the listener. Some of the lyrical content is a bit unsavory, such as when the protagonist of the song is sleeping with his best friend’s girlfriend (“B.F.G.F.”) or acting recklessly (“Downtown”), but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Collins even mixes it up a little with his vocal delivery, rapid-firing the lyrics in “Everything.”
Horrorscope is the only other Eve 6 album that I’ve listened to in its entirety, and I would say this album doesn’t quite measure up to it, nor to the singles from their eponymous first album. Horrorscope just seemed to have more variety and energy than Speak in Code, and while I like this album, I think the first two albums are a better starting point for a new Eve 6 fan.
Two housekeeping notes:
Recommendations: For each album I review, I’m going to give it a recommendation: buy it, borrow it, or skip it. This will help differentiate between albums that I think are very good albums that a listener will want to listen to and enjoy multiple times to find new layers, versus ones that have a shorter shelf life, and ones that you should just avoid entirely. I’m going to give Speak in Code a borrow it rating.
Track Picks: For each album I review, I’ll single out one or two tracks that I think stand out on the album. For this one, I’ll single out “Curtain” and “Lost & Found.”