Remedy Drive—born independent, shuffled to different labels when acclaim didn’t equal sales, and now taking the Kickstarter route—deserves respect for beating the industry blues and not giving up on its sophisticated rock music dream. Better yet, the Nebraska band’s determination has led to new purpose on Commodity, a conceptual set inspired by lead singer David Zach’s recent undercover mission work in Southeast Asia against human trafficking. This album raises awareness and the bar on creativity; it would’ve fit right in with the socio-spiritual best of Peter Gabriel, U2, and Simple Minds in the 1980s.
Thematically, Commodity fits Zach’s vision; he hopes it “will sound like a captive’s dream of liberty—a defiant reminder that in the King’s kingdom the oppressed can find refuge, a child soldier can find safety, the trafficked daughter in the red light district can return to her innocence.” Thus we hear the truth in the title track’s declaration: I’m a soul inside a body / I’m not a commodity, the disgust in “The Wings of the Dawn”: They’re taking beautiful and making it cheap / squeeze the soul, break the heart, steal the beat, and the hope in “Under the Starlight”: Maybe we can tear a little corner off the darkness.
Indeed, Commodity brings light while sonically matching the heavy air of its subject. The rising melody of “Commodity” is a heart’s cry poured over a muddy rhythm—something Switchfoot might attempt. The cleverly worded “Dear Life”—about the emptiness felt on this crowded earth—couples twinkling keyboards with a fuzzy bass guitar. The rapped verses of “Under the Starlight” spit stark opposites (Kalashnikovs, eight year olds . . .) before a lilting ‘70s pop chorus arrives. “The Wings of the Dawn” adds an angelic children’s choir to an industrial account of child sex slavery. It’s hopeful and harrowing.
Despite the focused theme, Remedy Drive diversifies on occasion with good results. The worshipful “King of Kings” features the honeyed harmonies of special guest All Sons & Daughters. Two instrumental pieces—“June” and “The Sides of the North”—give listeners well-timed opportunities to decompress from the tough issues at hand. “Take Cover” reads like a needed lullaby, and “The Cool of the Day” imagines how peaceful the world used to be.
Albums like Commodity used to be easier to find than they are today. Don’t miss this noble effort that ultimately achieves pop without pretentiousness.