To Entertain and Confuse, the debut studio EP of Reisterstown-based trio Annedel, works well right about now. It’s hot outside. Work wears you down. You just want to kick back and zone for a spell. And sometimes, in order to do that properly, well, it can help to have a soundtrack. And this is where the EP comes into play. Annedels approach to the reggae-rock combination is not new (the recent, baffling reformation of Sublime is only the most recently memorable flare-up in the subgenres storied tenure). Nor, really, is its coupling with pop-punk from the 90s heyday of bands like The Offspring and Green Day. Innovation is not the name of the game across these four tracks.
But then, at the risk of speaking for the band, it’s also not really the game they’re attempting to play. To Entertain and Confuse is unabashed in its debt to the aforementioned influences (anyone listening to the first few bars of “Gravel” would be forgiven for mistaking it for a latter-day 311 cut—or, yes, Sublime). “Simple Complication” smacks distinctly of the ska-punk, minus the characteristic horn section and obnoxious wardrobe. Indeed, throughout the EP’s strikingly brief runtime, the melodies—though original—almost all sound familiar, which can be either good or bad depending on how one looks at it.
In fact, in the wake of the smooth segues between the powerchord-driven (and innately sing-along-able) “Nonsense,” the laidback two-four accents of “Gravel,” and “…Complication”s tuneful Rancid homage, the thick, rhythmic punctuations of closer “High” seem an almost radical departure. That they soon enough fade into another familiar reggae groove is at once disappointing and also expected. It would’ve been interesting to see the band truly shift gears, rather than remain in the same territory in which they’re so clearly comfortable.
That being said, for what it is, To Entertain and Confuse is solid, if not cerebral—the EP’s title gets it half-right, to quote the thematically (if not stylistically) appropriate Heatmiser. And in some ways, it is refreshing to see a band embracing rather than attempting to bury its influences. Some take longer to detect. Singer and guitarist Matt Collins’ voice sometimes sounds like a gruffer Gavin Hayes or a younger draft of Eve 6’s Matt Collins (“Gravel”); the lyrics oscillate from insightfully aggressive (“Nonsense”) to…ahem…blunt (“High”). Regrettably, the rhythm section—Andy Campf on drums, Tom Croke on bass—aren’t given a whole lot to do other than provide stable backbeats, though the bridge of “Nonsense” at least provides a degree of flexing room. Again, it would be welcome for Annedel to explore such moments even further, but for now, To Entertain and Confuse works just fine as a bite-size Summer record.
To Entertain and Confuse is available for free download from the band’s website (warning to those at work: it will start playing as soon as you open the page). The band has several upcoming shows in the Maryland area, which can be viewed here.