My experience with The String Cheese Incident actually goes back a few years. Down the shore in about 2002-ish, I was speaking to a friend who introduced me to jam-band music. One of the bands she got me into was The String Cheese Incident, and over time I was able to pick up various songs and albums. This album is an example of a style of music that I am not all that familiar with, but I enjoy. There’s just so much music out there and it’s pretty hard to keep up with it all.
I hate using the term jam-band when it comes to describing the style of music that bands like The String Cheese Incident create, even though it makes the most sense technically speaking. They are a band, and most of their songs are some kind of improvised jam session, so I guess that fits them. There are elements of many genres of music within the band’s unique sound. Bluegrass, folk and reggae are but a few influences on the band’s sound. On One Step Closer, they show their varied influences. Some songs sound like the “typical” jam-band song, but others such as the opening track Give Me the Love reminds me somewhat of a Bob Dylan song. Not in the vocal style, as Dylan has one of the most distinctive voices in music, but instrumentally speaking, it wouldn’t be out of place on a Dylan album.
There are certain albums that can put the listener into a different frame of mind. This album is a great example of that. If you’re stressed out for any reason; just throw on One Step Closer. It is pretty much automatically going to calm you down. It’s practically impossible to hear this album and still stay angry at something. There aren’t all that many albums that personify the idea of a calm fun summer night. This is one of them. If you are doing anything during the hot summer months, throw on this album and it will fit into any situation.
Beyond the mood of the music, the question is whether the album is all style and no substance. It’s truly a bit of both. The music is very calming, which is a good thing. The actual songs are also pretty good. To me the biggest flaw and issue of the album is its pacing/track layout. Individually, the songs are a great listen, but together they just don’t have much of a flow. Its odd seeing as there is a definite mood to the album as a whole, but it seems somewhat disjointed in a way. The best way to describe it is like a sports team. The players on the team may be great, but if they can’t compete as a team to create a cohesive unit, the team doesn’t win. The album is made up of very good songs, but together they seem to skip around a bit too much. Variety on an album is great, but if the songs don’t fit together that takes the enjoyment of the album much lower for a listener.
With a different track sequence, this album would easily be a home run. As is, it’s hard to knock the album totally due to the songs being of high-quality. The pacing issues and track layout turn a good album into an average one.