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2000
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Local Extreme Act

Tree

Payin' the dues

Tree Some bands are merely motivated. You see their singers standing outside the doors at everyone else's shows, a stack of fliers and stickers in hand, aggressively pressing the flesh, manic, chatty, driven. That's been Tree for the better part of the past decade; but the English language has yet to produce an adjective strong enough to describe the kind of band who write what amounts to a suicide note to radio programmers and manage to get it played on the air. Long-time favorites on the all-ages punk/metal circuit -- when they weren't banned from every club in town -- the hard-drinking quartet delivered what might be their finest set yet in last year's Our Day Will Come (Wonderdrug), an album whose title seemed, at the outset, hopelessly optimistic. Until, that is, the local airwaves began to simmer with the single "Death Wish." The song begins with what sounds, at first, like simply your average metaphorical declaration of rock-and-roll devotion: "I'll stop singing/when I'm swinging/from a tree/with a noose around my neck." But by the time River -- a/k/a Dave Tree -- gets to the chorus, he sounds positively distraught, desperate maybe in not so good a way, so that in the middle of this song about being in rock "for a lifetime/not for a dollar sign," he is suddenly unhinged, screaming not at his audience but at the gatekeepers: "PUT ME ON YOUR PLAYLIST!" It is a startling thing to hear, a naked moment of raw ambition that recasts the earlier verse as, perhaps, the threat of a man literally at the end of his rope. The ambiguous pall the chorus casts on the previous verse is pure genius: is he in it for the long haul, or about to cash in his chips? "Death Wish" is, not surprisingly, Tree's all-time biggest (and only) hit; there is renewed talk of major-label interest. And maybe the album title doesn't sound so hopelessly optimistic anymore.

-- Carly Carioli


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