"After 1997’s fist-pumping “Ten Second Dynasty”, Static Rituals took a left-turn and delivered a landmark EP in the burgeoning 90’s Ohio scene. “Style Over Substance” features tremolo surf guitar, crashing synth waves and a tight four-on-the-floor electro beat. A new lineup (Thaddeus Wolfe on keyboard and Alicia Marston on drums) and new duties within the band (Brett R. Jan moved to a vocalist-only role, while M Short took over guitar and bass duties for the release) allowed the sonic compositions to expand beyond the post-punk anthems of their previous release.
While calling the EP “Style Over Substance” certainly jives with Static Ritual’s MO, the opposite is in fact true: this is an amazingly tight release, that shies away from stylistic flair to focus on delivering substance. Gone is the caterwauling and vocal flourishes from their freshman release. Here, Brett’s voice is determined and restrained; dark and paranoid. While still retaining some of the juvenile political ideation (apparent on I Am Mine - “Laugh at an abortion/Fuck the institution/Down with corporations/For total annihilation”) there’s also an undercurrent of sincerity and vulnerability (the same I Am Mine - “Looking for a good time/You had me in the meantime”). And when the cracks start to show through, once again on the blistering second track I Am Mine, you can feel the tension rising in Brett’s vocals, preparing for the passion of the final scream (“We will make you for-GET”). Less Starscream, more Megatron. The change in vocals wouldn’t work with the loose rock-n-roll party guitar of “Ten Second Dynasty”. Instead, M Short takes the guitar reigns to deliver frantic, anxiety-inducing guitar lines that will make your teeth rattle. On “Staticon Transmission”, M Short’s guitars weave together to create a dive-bombing buzz saw effect; within “Paradox In The Key E”, they form the rhythmic pumping that drives the song forward. The effect is that of pronounced craft: songs are allowed to build, crescendos are crested and payoffs are explosive. The newest addition of synthesizers (an obvious afterthought on 1997’s “Fast Talking Jack Took Third”), intertwine effortlessly with the guitars. Thaddeus’s nimble fingers tap-dance through the poly-melodies of “Cordial Regulation”. Harsh synth lines step fiercely around the guitar in “Paradox In the Key Of E”, neither fighting for dominance - instead creating a harmonious synergy. All of this is gloriously tied together by the tightest rhythm section this side of the mason-dixon. Newcomer Alicia Marston effortlessly summons a tsunami of a backbeat while M Short’s bass-lines compliment and propel with a furious cadence.
It all comes together for a stunning, scene-changing sophomore release. Inspiring scores of other musicians in the Toledo area (the influence on Stylex are obvious and they wouldn’t exist without this album), the tight, focused, singular vision of “Style Over Substance” still stands as one of the heavy-hitters of 90’s Ohio music. Static Rituals would eventually release other music but this is the EP that music critics will look back upon as their crowning moment - the moment when these four teenagers created something greater than the sum of it’s parts."
- Bryan Bunch, 2001, MUEN Magazine
released November 8, 2008
All songs by M Short
Vocals: Brett R. Jan
Guitars, Bass, Synth: M Short
Synth: Thaddeus Wolfe
Drums: Alicia Marston
all rights reserved