With a list of credits as extensive as Julian Beeston’s, it’s actually quite incredible to think that he’s never had a solo release or spearheaded a project of his own until now. As the primary creative force behind Featured, the project seems aptly named as a means for him to no longer be the featured guest, but to bring others into his own fold, with the We the People EP being but the first brief but powerful taste of what he has to offer.
The title track kicks us off as a blazing bit of bluesy industrial/rock, the rhythms strident and shuffling as I Ya Toyah belts out a vocal performance that is every bit as soulful as we’ve come to know and expect from her, the richness of her timbre accentuated by the incendiary guitars of Mellisa Evila and Beeston’s intricate and energetic layers of electronics. The same can be said of “Fuel,” the trippy and atmospheric intro strutting beneath Livvy Holland’s emotive voice before the beats and the light but cocky guitars pick up the intensity; pulsating synth arpeggios and Holland’s harmonies add more to the track, recalling the mechanical ambience of the ‘90s, while a distorted harmonic solo brings the song to a rather nice coda. Whitney Tai’s lithe and airy voice adds a ghostly yet angelic quality to the slow vitriol of “Blind,” the swells of orchestral and ethnic string flourishes and slithery electronics making for a haunting song that might remind some of Collide, while “Five Long Days” moves at a languid pace upon which Paul Gilmer sings a lovely melody that recalls Pigface and Lolo’s “Sweetmeat,” the guttural force of the guitars and drums in the chorus as she sings “Goodbye’s hard to say” making for a rather catchy moment.
In fact, the only real issue with We the People is that while a strong showing of Beeston’s musical and production skills, the songwriting bears too much of a resemblance to a bygone era of alternative music that he helped to shape; there’s such a familiarity in these four tracks that this writer often found himself questioning if they were covers of acts Beeston had been associated with in the past, and that Featured might simply be his further exploration of where he’d have taken those songs if left to his own devices. Indeed, this may still be the case in a more stylistic sense, and he has assembled a fine contingent of guest vocalists to give the songs more vocal and lyrical depth. Perhaps, as a good EP should indicate and We the People is a good EP, this is all leading to something more adventurous and that a full-length album will reveal more interesting surprises in store.