The String Cheese Incident waste no time sharing their core concept on Believe. After a 9 year gap between their previous studio releases, they are back just two short years after A Song In My Head with a very pointed and positive message for the world.
You can stream the entire album and read along with our thoughts and insights below. We hope you enjoy this as much as we did.
A terrifically punchy bass line from Keith Mosely launches the title track in an infectious style. Michael Kang gets some fun backing vocal help as he examines the difference between wanting and needing. “Believe” is very musically dense, with subsections and timing changes that are built for the stage. With a riotous break down and a rock solid truism about the importance of self-worth, the String Cheese Incident have crafted a near perfect example of their sound.
There is a mindset, a feeling to falling in love. Beyond that, though, is a less lyrically mined territory that is, honestly more important…keeping love alive. The intersection of connection and commitment is well mined on “Sweet Spot.” A Cheese topic staple, the song manages to be familiar without slipping into repetitive territory. Sure…organ runs ascend to the heavens, choral sections surge, and arching solos fall into boogie breakdown like Cheese tracks past.
“My One And Only”
This track’s acoustic intro brings the pace down and the band back to their roots with beautiful piano counterpoints alongside lush bowed violin and organ chords. Complete with brave confessional tone, the drums rev up the pace without disrupting the airy acoustic feel of the track. Again, the song seems built for live settings
“Down A River”
Cheese eases off the throttle on the third song of Believe with a languidly paced ode to going with the flow of life. An acapella introduction showcases how perfectly the voices of Kang, Nershi and the band blend, plaintive and expansive. The song, like the subject matter, isn’t in any hurry to get to where it is going. Utilizing an inspired mirroring of subject matter, tone, and tempo causes a resonance that would be impossible to achieve in any other medium. Not only do they have something important to say about taking life as it comes, they manage to say it in a remarkably artful way.
The simple joys of summer and the urge to get out and “Get Down” are perfect spring topics. As adept as the String Cheese Incident is at crafting complex pieces of music, their simpler works seem less imposing in comparison. That doesn’t mean that “Get Down” is a throwaway song. The earnest lyrical point and the level of musicianship elevate this far beyond simple filler. Even the Nershi version of a rap breakdown at the center is pure Cheese-y innovation. When the song fades like a warm summer night, listeners will find themselves wistful to see the song go.
“Stop Drop Roll”
Sometimes people just want to dance. Cheese knows this well and on “Stop Drop Roll,” they make sure to cover that base. A welcome percussion blast at the very start lets you know that it is time to get the funk down. When String Cheese gives their version of boogie music, the versatility of the band is best revealed. When a band is equally comfortable laying down fat grooves as they are hushed acoustic melodies, you never know what to expect. Cheese fans, however, do know for a fact that whatever the band does, it will bring a smile to their face.
Billy Nershi steps up to the plate on “Flying” to address the feeling of helplessness and the daunting nature of the tasks ahead of us in the way only he can. Snippets of dialogue that are reminiscent of the jabbering of news anchors attempt to derail the tunes flow. This serves to simulate the way the 24/7 news cycle is intruding on our lives. Nershi’s lyrical reminder to tune out the distractions by rising above them is a welcome light in the encircling darkness. We all LIVE amid the evils of the world, but the evils of the world don’t have to live inside us.
“So Much Fun”
The futility of stress is raised and debunked with the very first words of “So Much Fun. Kyle Hollingsworth gently reminds listeners of the fate of our best laid plans. A line “My favorite song is always on” speaks volumes to the underlying theme of the album itself, perspective. Musically, “So Much Fun” is the most straight forward of Believe that gives the conceit at the heart of the track the much needed room to breathe.
“Beautiful” is the most intricate and engrossing of this collection. Hann and Travis create some wonderful Latin flavored percussion to get the blood pumping, while the track is littered with arching solos, popping bass, and twinkling keyboard fills to add style to the substantive message that perfectly summarizes all the work that has gone before. Kang and Nershi trade vocal leads and unite for the chorus. “Beautiful” builds on a looping reassurance to the listener to not only see but to accept their inner beauty.
Unrelenting positivity in the face a climate of negativity is Cheese’s gift to their fans and the world. It would be easy to forgive a band for changing their tone in times of societal upheaval. Luckily, that is not the way of the String Cheese Incident. The intersection of music and love has always been their home and they aren’t about to leave.
Cheese gamely reminds us that without joy life isn’t worth living. Harsh truths can cut through our personal reveries.
Believe is a response to the doom and gloom of the moment. The central point of the String Cheese Incident’s newest release is that some truths are fleeting but one is eternal: only hope can defeat despair and only love can conquer hate.
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