On the back of Steve Steele's debut CD, The Expat, he comments, "I'll sing whatever I like, to whomever I like." A more concise and clear artist's statement for any aspiring musician could hardly be written. It fits Steele whose music is as personal and passionate as it is eccentric and eclectic. He is certainly composing the music he likes.
Before speaking to the music, the theme/content of The Expat should be noted. Steele explores the isolation and disconnectedness from the modern world even in the presence of Internet connectivity and social networking. Therefore Steele becomes the 'expatriate' in his native Houston. The work is in three parts, with each part preceded by 'disjointed radio snippet.' Steele is (largely) the protagonist and guide through the songs.
The music on The Expat is largely rock, at least in the broadest sense. With his knowledge of multiple types of music, jazz, classical, rock, and others, the more specific nature of this work might be called art or prog rock. The arrangements are in one sense heavy, but perhaps a better word is dense. Revelation on the Radio or My Brother The Devil are awash with layers of sound. Steele reminds of David Bowie and Frank Zappa washed through Brian Eno. Possibly the most interesting element of The Expat is Steele's vocals; it's certainly unique and expressive. However, listening to Dramatic Girls Forever or Via Satellite, to mention only two examples, I can't help wondering if I hear a sneer, sarcasm, of that aforementioned elucidation.
Admittedly, digesting The Expat requires repeated spins. I was initially put off by the near grating signature very first song, Revelation on the Radio, and Steele's singing style. However, changing context, from office to automobile, and playing through, Steele's music became intriguing (and exposed his creative literacy). Dramatic Girls Forever, Godwin Park, Via Satellite, and Star City are terrific tracks.
Ultimately, Steve Steele's The Expat is genuinely provocative, intelligent, and satisfying music. Often challenging, and sometimes arresting, Steele combines his literate expression with fine musical innovation.
Steve Steele's The Expat is genuinely provocative, intelligent, and satisfying music. Often challenging, and sometimes arresting, Steele combines his literate expression with fine musical innovation.
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