Crossing Off the Miles
Collecting both of Chad's Tree's full albums along with singles, demos, and other recordings, Crossing Off the Miles is as complete an overview of a band's career as one could want, down to the detailed liner notes from friends, fans, and above all else, brothers Mark and Rob Snarski, the founders of the group. Impressive as everything is, it's all down to the music -- and the end results are often startlingly good. For all that that the band was understandably compared to any number of Australian acts during its time, both in its hometown of Perth and elsewhere, there's almost more of a contemporary sense of self-consciously literate drama in songs like "Sweet Jesus Blue Eyes," "Carve It in Wood," and "The Flood Johanna" that fits in easily with bands like the Hold Steady, the Drones, and especially, looking back a bit, the Walkabouts. Mark Snarski's strong vocal performances and often arresting images evoking love, spirituality, lost souls, and moody settings, put the focus much more on the lyrics than the music; without sounding like spoken word performances, the songs give a sense of the band's arrangements being made to accompany the words rather to complement or hide them. That said, the music is often remarkable on its own, especially in the introductions to songs like "On My Blind Side," and in the increasing range of instrumentation shown, moving beyond rock arrangements as such and into everything from flamenco to a brief but striking piano instrumental with "The Century Hotel." The various non-album cuts range from the remarkable (the "Stroller in the Attic"/"The Orchard" single) to the rough and ready, like the cover of "Stranger in My Own Home Town" closing the collection.