It took three years for the Promise Ring to reinvent itself. That's the length of time it's been since the act released "Very Emergency," a Midwestern power-pop blend of scrappy guitars and Davey VonB

It took three years for the Promise Ring to reinvent itself. That's the length of time it's been since the act released "Very Emergency," a Midwestern power-pop blend of scrappy guitars and Davey VonBohlen's excited vocals, which sounded as if he had stumbled upon a cure for shyness.

Yet the Milwaukee-based group's Stephen Street-produced "Woodwater" (due April 23 and its first for Epitaph imprint Anti-) is a move toward a refined pop sound, one with a Wilco adventurousness and a Brit-pop awareness. The opening "Size of Your Life," with its muffled vocals, glistening midtempo guitar riff, and abrupt end amid a smattering of keyboard notes, is more akin to the redemptive rock of Spiritualized than the punky fare that marked the band's beginnings.

"Three of the first songs we wrote for this record were essentially 'Very Emergency' extended, just a little bit more guitar rock, a little bit catchier and a little stronger melodies, and it was boring," VonBohlen says. "There's nowhere to go with 'Very Emergency.' It's a four-on-the-floor pop record, and there's nothing else to say about it. We got to the end of the pencil point, and there was nowhere to go but jump off."

The band -- rounded out by bassist Scott Schoenbeck, guitarist Jason Gnewikow, drummer Dan Didier, and keyboardist BJ Seidel -- has shot a video for "Stop Playing Guitar," directed by former Gus Gus member Stefan Arni and his frequent collaborator Siggi Kinski.

The band will hit the road next week in support of "Woodwater." The tour kicks off April 27 in Minneapolis, and will feature the Weakerthans supporting through a May 15 show in Dallas. The Promise Ring will continue on the road in the U.S. through a May 23 stop in Philadelphia, and will follow up with a trip to Europe, where the band currently has one date confirmed, June 3 in Brussels.





Excerpted and adapted from the April 20, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

For information on ordering a copy of the issue, click here.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

Print