Centerfield Channels Inner 90s Emo Kid with Vacation EP
By Carly Wedding
Centerfield’s (link) most recent release Vacation is like taking a trip down memory lane to a decade the band members were too young to appreciate at the time. The 90s influence resonates through the Baltimore band’s 5-song EP, taking cues from the likes of emo pioneers Sunny Day Real Estate, Texas is the Reason, and at times American Football. As of recent, this grungy alternative rock sound has been attempted by many, but few succeed. Centerfield is one of those few.
Opener “Port Royal” begins with a grungy guitar riff that could have easily been a bonus track from Pearl Jam’s Ten or an early version of “Possum Kingdom” by Toadies. Guitarist and singer William Teague seems to have mastered the technique of hushed singing, an element that many attempt but fall short of succeeding. Too often, the singing isn’t enunciated enough, or the music overshadows it, resulting in more noise than music. As the song progresses, Teague (who played rhythm and lead guitar on this release, prior to the addition of second guitarist Matt Allred) subtly introduces a lead that is undoubtedly influenced by Clarity-era Jimmy Eat World. It’s one of those leads that make everything feel important, like the lead in “Getting Sodas” by The World Is A Beautiful Place or “47” by Sunny Day Real Estate.
“Scotty Knows” maintains the dark mood of the previous track. This song is a bit more upbeat and groovy, despite its dark lyrics: “I tried so hard to put it out / But it only made things worse.” Mark Bessler’s drumming particularly stands out in the intro of the song, accentuating the lead guitar’s existential-sounding riff.
“Mid” is the appropriately titled half-marker of the release, and its lead guitar riff has the same power over the listener as it did in the previous two songs. It’s like the title track from Texas is the Reason’s Do You Know Who You Are? in that regard. A.J. Polesel’s bass kicks in, reiterating the idea that will eventually be introduced by Teague: “Waiting for nothing / Just darkness and silence.”
Bessler’s drumming asserts dominance in “The Money Riff,” waiting for the guitars to follow is lead. Lyrically, this track sounds like it could have been a lost recording from Title Fight’s Floral Green sessions: “Complacently waiting / Content with nothing.” The dynamics rotate between crescendo and decrescendo, possible serving as a symbol for the struggles of coping with mental illness.
Instrumentally, “Hyrule” is the happiest sounding on the EP, which contradicts Teague’s lyrics: “I’ve been sick so long / But I repressed it since I was young / It made me feel like a monster.” It’s similar to Daylight’s Jar album in that it’s fun to listen to, but the lyrics are anything but uplifting. The track closes out with a riff that leaves the listener asking, “Is that it?” It feels incomplete, but maybe that was the intention. Maybe they want the listener to ask themselves if their life is all they really want it to be.
Overall, Vacation is a hauntingly fantastic release from the now four-piece. It successfully recreates the Sub Pop sound without seeming like a forced effort of imitating 1994’s Diary. In the future, it would be a treat to hear the band further utilize their skills, perhaps with longer tracks, instrumental intermissions, and more slow songs to allow the listener to appreciate what a good emo band sounds like, all while nearly having an existential crisis.