The first two albums from Better Than Ezra were recorded as low-budget demos and released on tiny indie labels, even though the second one, Deluxe, was leased by Elektra and turned into a platinum smash. The third album, F... more »riction, Baby, is the trio's first with a big budget and an experienced producer (Don Gehman of John Mellencamp, R.E.M., and Hootie & the Blowfish), and it crystallizes Better Than Ezra's identity as a mainstream pop band relying on catchy hooks, straightforward lyrics, and top-40 arrangements (which in 1996 meant grunge guitar). Kevin Griffin, the group's singer/songwriter/guitarist, has excellent pop instincts, and the 13 songs on Friction, Baby are as pleasurable as they are unadventurous. --Geoffrey Himes« less
The first two albums from Better Than Ezra were recorded as low-budget demos and released on tiny indie labels, even though the second one, Deluxe, was leased by Elektra and turned into a platinum smash. The third album, Friction, Baby, is the trio's first with a big budget and an experienced producer (Don Gehman of John Mellencamp, R.E.M., and Hootie & the Blowfish), and it crystallizes Better Than Ezra's identity as a mainstream pop band relying on catchy hooks, straightforward lyrics, and top-40 arrangements (which in 1996 meant grunge guitar). Kevin Griffin, the group's singer/songwriter/guitarist, has excellent pop instincts, and the 13 songs on Friction, Baby are as pleasurable as they are unadventurous. --Geoffrey Himes
"There always seems to be a 'curve' of sorts, with many many bands' sound and songwriting. They start out rough but energetic, their songwriting gets better and they get 'tighter' the more they play together. Then later on, (especially if they get more well-known) come the 'overproduced' albums that has them sounding less like they first did, or maybe they change their style to match what sells better. Or maybe they just run out of creativity and their later songs just aren't as well-written or unique-sounding.
Why do I mention this? Well, just to illustrate how I see this band. Their first full-length, 'DeLuxe', was a great album in its own right. But THIS one is where BTE really came into their own. The playing is better, the songs are hookier and well-written, and the instrumentation and production is varied and always just-right. This is the BTE album that you'll be most likely to play over and over, and to happily sing along with every song on it (even the instrumental!). By FAR their best example of honest, heartfelt pop/rock.
After this, came the overproduced one........"
Weathering the storm...
aiylyn | Washington, Mi United States | 10/30/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Better Than Ezra deserve a lot of credit. Why? Because they work. Hard. When I saw them in 2001 I had the impression that it could have been their first time on the road, they seemed so enthusiastic and grateful that their job is to rock out every night. This, their first major release and second album overall, is moodier and more erratic, stylistically, than the more consistent country-rock of Deluxe. The lyrics are a shade darker, the guitars are louder and grittier, and the whole impact is cranked up a notch. Considering this album came out in 1996, you can tell that they were influenced by what was going on around them in the music world. Still, they managed to display flexibility, a willingness to change with the times, yet still stubbornly original enough to stand on their own two feet. A rare compromise in mainstream music, and another reason why I think Better Than Ezra are the best pop band ever. The material is deceptively layered. A first listen might give the impression that some songs were meant to be instant hits while others are simply filler. But further listens will reveal that some songs take multiple listens before their beauty is revealed. Songs like "Long Lost" and "Hung the Moon," I didn't understand until several years after I'd had the album. Every time you think you've uncovered everything there is here, something else comes to light. This album stays fresh through the test of time and has a stunningly high replay value - I can't count how many times I've listened through and not been bored. This is the album where Kevin and the boys made their declaration: they were here to stay. And they are still here."
This is some quality music
Stanley Climbfall | USA | 03/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just recently rediscovered this band. I had heard their mega-hit "Good" a long time ago, not realised it was them until now, and then picked up this CD. At first, I wasn't too keen on some of the songs, but now each song is great in it's own way. Kevin Griffin has a great voice.
King of New Orleans - This is the kind of song that becomes an instant classic. Everyone loves this song because it's just like that. It has catchy guitar riffs and a catchy chorus.
Rewind - I think this is the closest BTE ever comes to pop. Trust me, BTE IS NOT POP. This is another super-catchy song that's just as loud and gritty as 'King of New Orleans.'
Long Lost - The chorus of this song is definitely something I'll not forget. Kevin Griffin shows his range in this song. It has a more melancholy tone than the previous two songs.
Normal Town - Dude, this song has a flute solo in it. It sounds crazy, but it works for the song really well. While this song isn't one of my favourites on the CD, it is still a good listen.
Scared Are You? - This is one of my favourite tracks. The lyrics are great, the riffs are great. This is a highlight track for sure.
Return of the Post Moderns - This was influenced by the 90's. It borders more on the political side oddly enough. It's a bit strange, but it does grow on one.
Hung the Moon - This has the perfect grunge feel to it. It starts off with the amps turned all the way up with plenty of distortion. Another instant classic.
Desparately Wanting - This is a really catchy track. It starts off toned down and gradually picks up. It's another track that's guaranteed popularity like 'King of New Orleans.'
Still Life With Cooley - This almost gives the impression of being country until you reach the end of the track. At the end, you get a classic Ezra sound like in 'Hung the Moon.' Another strong song by Kevin Griffin.
WWOZ - This is another favourite. It's a great ballad.
Happy Endings - This is like 'WWOZ,' but it does have its differences. I love the lyrics of this one.
Speeding Up to Slow Down - This has the feel of an epic: it starts off slowly and builds up to a huge climax. Great song.
At Ch. Degualle, Etc. - This is an instrumental. It has some great guitar work in it, and the brass that comes in later sounds great with the band. They did some very creative arrangements on this instrumental.
There is another segment on after the instrumental where it sounds like Kevin is singing in maybe French? Anyway, that's another good song. It's a live track and it sounds like the band was doing some improvisation. It sounds great. I wish I could see them live!
This is a great CD. Go out and listen to this band. They are so hard-working. They are another one of those under-rated 90's bands like Toad the Wet Sprocket or others."
Can this band do wrong? I don't think so!
Joshua Nerat | Aurora, CO USA | 01/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"BTE has got to be one of the most under-rated bands out now. I have not been able to figure out the reason, because these guys have so much to offer the music industry, that isn't fluff like most of the .....on the radio now-a-days(Backstreet Boys, N-Sync,etc...). The lyrics Griffin writes really touch people, because they are about personal stories, but can be related to the people that listen to them. And if you have your doubts, go see them live, and you will never doubt again. They put on one of the best, energetic, fun-loving live shows of any band out. This disc is probably my over-all favorite by them, but it is hard to pick one. Some of the high-lights are Long Lost which just hits you like a ton of bricks during the verse, but then the chorus comes up and it is just beautiful and delicate. It has some hard hitters like King of New Orleans and Desparately Wanting, and then mellow things down with WWOZ, Happy Endings, Scared Are You?, which just come together so well. This is a great record and one of my favorite bands of all time."
One of the MoreTalented releases of the Pop-Grundge era
John NY | ny, ny United States | 10/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Obviously affected by the widespread success of the harder grundge sound, BTE followed suit with similar peers, Counting Crows, and released a harder sophomoric album.
While some may brush it off simply for following the sonic trend at the time, the result here are some of the best songs created in the 96, 97 time period.
The harder sound invigorates and exacerbates Kevin's emotional lyrics, and overall this makes for a truly rewarding, full sounding album as a whole."