Review: Is Cement Season’s latest album Power On aptly named?

Cement Season - Power On coverIf you ever need a quick and easy way to sell someone on your band, just add “space” to the beginning of your genre. Space thrash metal, space synthpop, space glam rock, space tech-death, Space Godzilla, Space Jam, etc. However, when was the last time you heard the term “space grunge” used to describe a band’s sound?

And so here we are with the progenitors of the sure-to-be movement of space grunge, Cement Season. This Portland-based rock quartet claims to be from an alternate universe where 1990s alternative rock bands including Seaweed and Sponge are still having charting hits and getting sucked off by music critics. You know what they say, “The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland.”

Cement Season has the courage to tout that they believe their sound is what grunge might have ended up sounding like had the genre not “crashed and burned”, but I’m not sure this is a statement that I agree with. While I’m glad that the group acknowledges that the post-grunge movement was far from being a worthy follow-up to grunge, the group’s second album Power On doesn’t do as much with their grunge influence as you might expect, as this approach is halted pretty quickly.

The first three songs on the album take on a fairly standard throwback grunge affair, with their most noticeable influences being Alice in Chains and Green River. From the Chains-y vocal harmonies of the opening track “Ten Eight” to the dingy bass line of “Super Jupiter”, everything about these first few songs screams “90s!”, and I could easily picture hearing them on SiriusXM Lithium.

However, when the grunge throwback is practically scrapped entirely and the space rock starts to seep in, that’s when things really start to get going. The song structure starts to get more complex, taking on abstract rhythms, progression throughout tracks, and sometimes not even having vocals at all. Some listeners may be disappointed that Cement Season doesn’t go for a full-on throwback experience like bands like Tame Impala or Thee Oh Sees provide to their respective genres, but as a fan of this particular brand of ethereal rock, I was completely smitten by Power On once its true colours started to show.

The best song on the album by far is the very last one, “Lost in Space”, which clocks in at almost 9 minutes. An entirely-instrumental piece that has the progression and pacing of Cloudkicker and the gloomy, yet oddly gorgeous tone of Wax Fang’s The Astronaut album, “Lost in Space” is just spellbinding, complemented by fantastic spacey instrumentals and climaxing with a guitar solo from Shawn Zapata that’s to die for.

Overall, Cement Season’s latest completely destroyed my expectations. I went into Power On with an open mind, expecting a solid old-school grunge album with some operatic space rock mixed into the equation, and instead what I got was one of the best space rock albums I’ve heard in years, with some grunge, psychedelic rock and garage rock influences thrown in.  It’s most definitely an album I would recommend you pick up, just don’t go into it expecting a groundbreaking grunge revival, because then you might be disappointed.

Power On doesn’t drop until the 3rd of April, to which it will be available on Cement Season’s Bandcamp page and their CDBaby page. The group will be having a CD release party in their hometown of Portland, Oregon that same day in promotion at the Ash Street Saloon. More details here. To keep up with the band behind the awesome, you can like their page on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @CementSeason.

I tell you what, if an album this good is the first album I ever review for the NorthWest Music Scene, I think I’m going to like it here.

About Jess Casebeer

The "Resident Hipster" of the NorthWest Music Scene, Jess Casebeer is the youngest member of the Music Scene crew at age 16. Open to pretty much any and every genre out there, he greatly values reviews that are informative, critical and entertaining. He's kind of like an innerspring mattress: firm, yet comfortable in its own right. Follow him on Twitter @JessCasebeer.