Picture, if you will, a diffident young professional. By day, he is entrenched in the beige, climate-controlled world of corporate law. By night, he tirelessly melds face-searing riffs with pounding, syncopated drums, awaiting a rock-n-roll miracle.
Criteria's Stephen Pedersen need wait for that miracle no longer. And neither must you.
Little do the smartly attired business professionals milling about the water cooler know that standing amongst them is a man whose hair looks like that on purpose. A man whose musical pedigree stretches beyond the turn of the century.
In 1990, a pubescent Stephen Pedersen started playing guitar in multiple bands with multiple, similarly pubescent Omaha stalwarts; mostly in multiple incarnations of the band that became Cursive, with whom he played guitar until 1998. Following a slew of 7”s and Cursive’s first two full-length releases, Pedersen got the bright idea to move to Durham, North Carolina to attend Duke law school. There are probably worse ideas. But the rock just couldn't be stopped.
In Durham, he formed a band called The White Octave, whose October 2000 album, Style #6312, was released on Deep Elm. Their 2001 Initial Records follow-up, Menergy, had not only a creepy name but also a mildly disturbing cover that featured a leisurely posed, naked, illustrated man with his erogenous zones in glowing red.
Then came the winds of change and an onslaught of bills from anxious student loan providers. At the end of 2001, Stephen took flight from the Deep South and was sucked back into the welcoming arms of the reserved heartland of Omaha, Nebraska. The White Octave was no more. Still. The rock could not be stopped.
What happens when a man lives in a friend's dim, mildewy basement for six months? He writes an album called En Garde and starts to call himself by a band name, Criteria. He recruits local musicians who similarly spent too much time in dim, mildewy basements to play the songs on En Garde, so as to not draw too much attention to himself.
Those musicians were former bass player for Lullaby For The Working Class and Presto! Studios engineering wizard AJ Mogis; half-man, half-machine drummer, Mike Sweeney of Beep Beep; and the secret ingredient, six string shredder Aaron Druery. With their help, Criteria went from being the code name of a guy to being a proper band.
People throw around the phrase "criminally overlooked" hither and yon, willy and nilly. So, when we tell you that Criteria's 2003 Initial Records debut, En Garde, was criminally overlooked, understand that we are not using code for "not actually very good, just kind of a flop." On the contrary, En Garde was the album for which the cliché "criminally overlooked" was created. Which is why Saddle Creek will re-release En Garde in September of 2005 - to ensure critics and fans will at last respond, "Touché, Criteria. Touché."
The reissue will come just one month after Saddle Creek's release of Criteria's second full-length, when we break; a startling display of fist-pumping anthems and contagious melodies hell bent on shaking the ass of even the most coolly aloof and cynical listener. when we break smashes out of the gate with its sing-along-equipped opener, “Prevent the World,” and refuses to relent for the duration of that which follows. when we break is loud no matter the volume. Criteria deftly navigates enough punchy time changes to satisfy the smartypantses while keeping all those heads a’bobbing. Two words: Big Rock.
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