CD Reviews

THE ORDEAL: Life, Love, the End

It’s ten in the morning on a Sunday, a light breeze in the air. The sun is a daffodil in the sky, and you’re pulling onto the 8 West in your car with the windows down and an ice chest full of cold Coronas on the back seat. You’re headed to Ocean Beach for a barbecue with some friends, and that feeling of setting out, of pointing the hood of your car toward the Pacific with nothing standing in the way—not another car on the road for miles, not a single cloud in the blue everything above—that feeling of beginning another good day in San Diego is exactly what listening to the album Life, Love, the End is like.

Sometimes we take the long way in San Diego because it isn’t really the end we’re looking for, and Life, Love, the End by local acoustic rock quartet The Ordeal is not without its meanderings. Its 6/8 swing dance through the desert high on vocal harmony (as in “Chasing the Way”) or its slow cruise through University Heights as the band’s singer Cathryn Beeks reminds us in the song “Chevy Van,” a lovely little—almost country—ditty, “You better slow this vehicle down.” Okay, Cathryn, we will. There’s no other way to say it: this album is about movement and variety, the high and low speeds that make up any life. Its lessons have been hard earned because let’s admit this too: nobody works harder than Cathryn Beeks for live music in San Diego.

And every musician worth their salt knows you don’t put a song on an album unless it’s proven itself in a live setting, and Life, Love, the End feels like the result of years of woodshedding tunes at San Diego’s live music staples like Winston’s, the Casbah, and Soda Bar because what The Ordeal (Cathryn Beeks, Matt Silvia, Marcia Claire, and Rob Garbo) have learned to do with vocal harmonies, acoustic guitar, bass, and drums is astounding. It takes diligence and years of playing live to discover how to play tastefully, a lesson more youthful musicians would do well to learn, and though you will hear some excellent acoustic solos here, what excites me most about this band (aside from the harmony) is that they always seem to play what’s right for the song, and those hard-worked-for songs are the ones that most make us want to dance around inside them just a little bit longer.

So hey, listen up: the destination doesn’t matter today. We’re going on a long drive through San Diego. Everybody is invited, and you should hop in. The Ordeal are in the driver’s seat, so let’s crack a Corona, take a cold drink, turn up the volume on Life, Love, the End, and enjoy the ride because you don’t need to worry, because whenever you feel the need to ask, “Where should we go?” Cathryn Beeks will go on reminding us: “We don’t care, we don’t know. I love our song. Leave it on. Leave it on.”

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