Personnel: Geoff Farina (vocals, guitar); John Dugan (drums).
Audio Mixer: Andy Hong.
Recording information: Hev-E-Kreem, Chicago; Kimchee, Boston; Minbal, Chicago.
The 2005 break-up of his band Karate marked the end of a 12-year stretch of non-stop touring, recording, and shifting composition for singer/guitarist Geoff Farina. Over that period, the band grew from their beginnings of precision-minded, emo-leaning indie rock to incorporate more jazzy guitar playing and structures. They also played well over 500 very loud shows, which left Farina with hearing damage severe enough to break up the band and for him to put down amplified music altogether, opting instead to focus on quieter projects like his duo with songwriter Chris Brokaw, or his more low-key solo recordings. Farina returns to rock with Exit Verse, a Chicago power trio that recalls some of the tightly coiled songwriting of his Karate days, but also brings in the influence of classic rock and early punk bands, offering a fun-loving looseness that was absent from much of his catalog prior to this band. This is apparent from the carefree riffs of "Under the Satellite" that begin the album. Straightforward and bouncing, there's a sense of youthful optimism to the song that Farina couldn't muster even in his younger days. An undercurrent of spring-like hopefulness runs throughout the album, coming through in the unhurried shuffling rhythms of "Silver Stars" and in Farina's subtle, lyrical wordplay. At times, Exit Verse have hints of the same bright-eyed approach as their contemporary Ted Leo, especially when they lean a little harder on the Thin Lizzy influence that Leo sometimes wore on his sleeve. "Pull Out the Nails" is a perfect example of this, sounding like the Clash or Thin Lizzy filtered through Karate's tight perfectionism rather than Leo's scrappy mod-punk rave-ups. Additional vocals from Thalia Zedek on three tunes are the only real augmentation to Farina's bare-bones rock arrangements. These chugging, unclouded rock sprints are a far cry from the cold moodiness of early Karate or even the melancholic softness of some of Farina's other projects. With Exit Verse he sounds downright giddy, returning to rock with a renewed spirit and some of the most exciting songs of his catalog. ~ Fred Thomas