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Student Union Board to host Better Than Ezra Friday

Observer Scene | Thursday, December 1, 2005

There’s a moment when every great band realizes its full potential. It is a maturation of sounds, a clash of ideas and a formulation of a more distinct sound. It is this realization that Better Than Ezra achieves on its most recent album “Before the Robots.” And it is this sound that will be coming to Notre Dame, care of the Student Union Board, Friday.

Better Than Ezra, an alt-pop rock group featuring hints of country, rock and even funk influences, originally formed in 1988. The members were Kevin Griffin (vocals, guitar), Joel Rundell (guitar), Tom Drummond (bass) and Cary Bonnecaze (drums). Better Than Ezra formed when all the members were students at Louisiana State University.

The group released its first album, “Surprise,” on cassette only. The album named turned out to be prophetic as it was welcomed to warm criticism. Tragically, Rundell committed suicide in 1990, leaving the future of the band lost in ambiguity.

The band decided it was best to part ways. However, just a year later, they reunited, this time as a trio and began to work on a new album. After moving to Los Angeles, they released a new album titled “Deluxe.” Soon thereafter, several labels began actively pursuing Better Than Ezra and eventually the band landed with the major label Elektra, which promptly re-released “Deluxe” in 1995. Despite the band’s sudden success, Bonnecaze decided to leave the band at the beginning of 1996 and was replaced by Travis McNabb, forming the band as it is today.

In 1996 the group released “Friction, Baby,” its third album. This album was not commercially as lucrative as “Deluxe” but was still considered a success. Then in 1998, the group released its fourth album “How Does Your Garden Grow?” which failed to bring Better Than Ezra back to the status the group had during the “Deluxe” album days. After dropping the Elektra label, putting out a few limited release albums and releasing a “Best-of” CD, Better Than Ezra released its most recent album “Before the Robots” in May of 2005 under the Artemis label.

This is the album that Better Than Ezra is currently promoting, and this is what the group will bring to Notre Dame. The album is a culmination of 17 years of music for Better Than Ezra, and that is evident in its tracks. Listening to the album, it is possible to hear layers of maturity in every song and hints of sounds from all of the group’s previous efforts.

Soulful lyrics are complimented by shades of modern rock, Southern flavor and even a flair for electronica to complete the album and vault the effort from the status of a “decent album” to a “great album.” The song “Juicy” is featured on a commercial for the popular show “Desperate Housewives” while the track “A Lifetime” is already receiving heavy radio play.

Considered by many to be one of the most influential groups of the mid-1990s, Better Than Ezra is sometimes said to be the band that opened the “pop-alt-rock” door for groups such as Matchbox Twenty, Third Eye Blind and the Goo Goo Dolls successes in the late 1990s.

SUB, the student-led group responsible for service as well as bringing social, cultural and intellectual opportunities to campus, is hosting the event.

Better Than Ezra will be performing in Stepan Center on Friday at 8 p.m., and tickets are $10 at the LaFortune Student Center box office. Tickets will be sold at the door with limited availability.