It’s not every day that three teacher assistants at grad school decide to form a band, but that is just how Boston’s own Random Variables came to be. Their debut EP, Place Holders, is a solid rock and roll record. The Variables blend great guitar, persistent drumming, and an acquired vocal taste into the album.
Opener “Arrivals” has a heavy Celtic vibe, echoes of Flogging Molly and The Dropkick Murphy’s seem to hang over this song. The vocals have a very strong Celtic bend to them. While it may sound like a drinking song, the lyrics are quite in depth, speaking of pain and destruction: tearing down slow-burning pillars of aggressive complacency.
“Distract” brings some hard rock and some punk momentum into the album. The guitar is wonderful on this song, having tiny solos, at that tail end of the choruses. Perhaps the biggest problem in the song rests with the lead vocals. During the chorus, when every member of a traditional rock band, would usually chime in, the band only sings together during one line. This becomes problematic, because it becomes glaringly obvious that the band sound better together. But other than the lack of an all band chorus, the song is solid, and the lyrics are once again wonderful and thought-provoking.
“Critical Mass” follows along the same musical progression as “Distract,” although the instrumental tempo becomes less varied. This actually helps to greatly enhance the song, as the more limited Random Variables sound, the tighter and more pleasant the experience. The guitar pounds steadily through most of the song, and the tail end solo is well played, and well timed.
The EPcomes to a close with “Departures.” This closer is a beautiful send off to the rest of the album. Musically, the song takes a starkly different path than the rest of the EP. The song is much slower, with more instruments thrown into the mix. “Departures” becomes a successful attempt by The Variables for something more grandiose, a great and complex closer to Place Holders.
Place Holders is a brave attempt at the Boston Rock scene. While the vocals can be a hit or miss, the rest of Random Variables, is unarguably solid and true. The EP picks up speed right away, and while it sounds like a simple rock record, the lyrics are complex, and speak of the convoluted mess that is the modern age. --Casey Lowrey
Listen: Random Variables -- "Departures"