Never let it be said defeating Maxwell Feinstein is easy. Max’s new album Redefine is a seven-song collection illustrating the artist’s indefatigable spirit for anyone who cares to listen. It is a musical smorgasbord that, nevertheless, skillfully balances itself well between several different genres without ever landing for long in any one style.
It is a triumph over hemophilia. The singer/songwriter and musician’s connection with his bleeding disorders informs every word on this release, certainly, but his semi-recent elbow surgery resulting from hemophilia irrecoverably changed his connection to the act of playing itself. It wasn’t entirely a given.
You hear the sound of a man playing for his life during “Borderlines”. The opener gains additional urgency, as if it needs it, from drummer John Roccesano’s thunderous playing. It is Feinstein’s voice, guitar, and lyrics, however, that carry the day for me. I felt an immediate connection with the song. “Stop the Madness” had a similar effect on me. He gives listeners a different take on his dynamic vision with this track. Feinstein doesn’t serve up a straightforward progressive or rock song here but, instead, mixes the two forms together in a highly individual fashion.
His ability to segue from playing reliant on sensitivity into a much more aggressive style is all the more remarkable considering his challenges, but it’s never less than seamless. There are reference points in his approach to the guitar, yes, but they are filtered through his consciousness into something uniquely his own. Evidence of his stylistic collisions is present in “Charades” as well.
The chiming guitars, perhaps reminiscent of later REM, blend well with the alt-rock tendencies. Those are especially prevalent in the song’s second half. Feinstein’s emotional edge is strong during his singing in the second half but, despite his quirky sound, I found that there isn’t a single vocal on this release I’d send back. They are all essential for the overall outcome.
“Pass” is going to have A LOT of admirers. It is alternative funk-rock, for lack of a better term, not far removed from 90’s bands such as Red Hot Chili Peppers at their most uncompromising, Fishbone, and other bands of that ilk. It’s far more personal than socio-political, however, introspection is an important part of these songs, but its physical immediacy will make your move. You have no choice.
The title song closes things. It is a clear final statement for the album, the sense of Feinstein gathering all his remaining eggs into this particular basket is pronounced, but it pays off for me rather than falling flat. I believe the key is that Feinstein doesn’t allow the track to spiral out of control and, instead, keeps a tight yet creative hand on its development. It closes out the collection with an emphatic statement about where he has been and what the road to come looks like to him. Max Feinstein’s Redefine is an invigorating ride from beginning to end.
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