Somewhere between the fiery staccato bursts of EPs and the drawn-out chatter of albums, lies a forgotten land- the land of the mini-album. In many cases, they are little more than infuriating, providing neither the intense promise of an debut EP nor the imagination of a full album. Symposium, a band best remembered for pulling off what can only be described as 'extremely energetic' live shows, worryingly decided to release this, their debut recording, in this format. Even more worryingly, it remains one of the seminal works of the 90s.
On first glance Symposium are at best an interesting proposition, with enough technical skills and pop sensibilities to pull off a distinctive sound. In the same way that some albums slowly begin to go up in our estimation after they've been intially released ('Velvet Underground', anyone?), 'One Day at a Time' seeps into your mind, until you become a gibbering wreck, capable only of forming rudimentary sentences to the tune of 'Fairweather Friend'. Well, maybe not, but this mini-album deserves all the repeat plays you can lavish upon it. From the start, you can tell that Symposium have an ear for a good tune with well-woven lyrics, opener 'Drink the Sunshine' being a homage to the curiosly teenage lifestyle Symposium glamorise. From there on in, it's one great track after another. Although one of the charges levelled against 'One Day at a Time' is that it all sounds much the same, each track is well crafted and wholly unique, the mini-album format making sure we get enough of a feel for the music without repetition. 'Farewell to Twilight' is a classic indie teenage ballad, with the sort of lyrics that almost everyone past a certain age can relate to. 'Puddles' arrives like a ska-filled bullet afterwards, and, although the band wear their influences on their sleeve, it's a brilliant slice of ska-punk-indie-rock, with the best riffs this side of the Darkness. The band somehow fade from rhythmic ska verses to raw angsty punk choruses without so much as a dud note. Fantastic.
It's hard to pick highlights from 'One Day at a Time', because every track is a highlight in itself. Personal favourites are 'Fairweather Friend', with its insanely bouncy ska intro/outro, and 'Fear of Flying', which is as near as the band ever get to standard indie, without straying into Travis-esque mediocrity. It's hard not to use superlatives. All being said, the album does have its faults- the vocals could do with a little variation, and, even though the CD is only 6 years old (as of 2003), production values occasionally fall below expected standards. As well as this, lyrically, the band seem stuck on the same themes, and the lyrics aren't always carried off as well as the music. Petty gripes, but nothing is perfect, and this certainly isn't an album for everyone. Or even a mini-album for everyone. You get the idea.
'Sympomaniacs' will tell you that the only way to truly appreciate Symposium's music is by going to one of their gigs. Sadly, since the band have split up a while back, that's pretty much impossible. In honesty though, the official live recording is too toned-down and the full album, 'On the Outside', is too long and same-y. 'One Day at a Time' is a perfect slice of pop with a liberal sprinkling of teenage lyrics and Symposium's unique madness. Crazy, brilliant, diverse and quite conclusively the best mini-album of the 90s, which is more of an accolade than it might seem...