Among the various influences cited by this Phoenix-based band on its MySpace page, the band describes its sound by telling a story of various alt-rock musicians meeting in a dive bar as they drown their sorrows to Pearl Jam. The Seattle band is indeed the most obvious of all names mentioned, as vocalist Nick Mulholland's voice bears a passing resemblance to that of Eddie Vedder. That's not to say that he is an imitator, for Highwire Fiction does attempt to incorporate other elements in its sound, even if they try a bit too hard. For instance, in "Eugene," they emulate The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" a bit too closely via its bass line, background vocals and guitar solo, and on "The Friends Song," they ultimately come out like a grungy Bon Jovi. What one feels when listening to In a Crowded Room is that these musicians are trying to find a sound of their own. The CD's mix is a mystery in itself did they choose that muddy, compressed sound, or was that caused by their studio's limitations? Highwire Fiction are obviously talented, but they lack the focus that comes from experience according to a Good Morning Arizona interview posted on YouTube, they have only been playing together for less than a year. Still, there are quite a few enjoyable moments here, such as the folkie-tinged "Gone," which allows guitarist Jake Cunningham to show his fine chops, and the rock ballad "Cricket Kingdom," which is arguably the disc's most concise tune.
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