The album opener sounds like music from the beginning of a movie where a Bruce Willis-type in sunglasses is driving in a convertible towards a big city.
Right away, you can tell that this album is decidedly not playing to a decade. You know how some songs you hear, and you can tell "yeah, this was definitely made between 1987 and 1988, LOL" --- this album is doing something I like, which is just playing what their sound is - not trying to appeal to a demographic or fad. Music like this is generally music that "holds up."
The first thing that jumped out to me about the sound of this album, oddly, was the drumming. It reminded me of that late 90s / early 00s sound of hard alt rock that fell between the nu-metal fad and the radio rock fairway. I'm talking about stuff like Guano Apes. The drumming carries attitude, like I can see the drummer's face bulldoggin'.
Next up is the vocalist - he is an acquired taste. Kind of school-yardy, kind of whiny - but I always give a fair shake to vocalists because they have no instrument to hide behind - they're giving a lot of themselves. If you aren't with me on this, bust out your cell phone and record yourself singing your favorite song. Now play it back and listen. Would you want to share that with your friends, family, and a paying audience? I sang in an a cappella group in college, and I was never very good at solo singing --- I had one or two solos, though, and neither of them were very good, because I know how annoying my voice sounds, so I was holding back, trying to hedge how much I gave on stage - put less on the table so there was less to lose. This just makes a weak singer sound worse. Anyways, someone with a voice that doesn't sound like Chris Cornell or Michael Buble who is letting it rip always gets patience in judging from me.
Also, I have been known to love singers whose voices are off the beaten path - exhibit A is Anthony Green, who sings higher than your girlfriend, Justin Vernon who always sings in falsetto, and Dryden Mitchell, who sounds the most like our singer here. Anyways, the vocal will definitely pop out at you, and whether or not you like it is as personal as Chevy vs. Ford. I'm in my probationary phase with it, where, as mentioned above, I appreciate that he's giving us his voice, not an imitation of Eddie Vedder's. But I haven't fallen in love with it the way I have with some of the aforementioned.
The bass player, I love. My first instinct comparison was Robert DeLeo - serving the role in the band first, but then pushing out enough character that there were lots of places in this album where I said "look out, there's some bass playing going on here." Not "slap you in the face" Flea type stuff, but something anyone who's ever played in a band can appreciate. I give high marks here, as I contend that the bass player is the most important member of every band. They don't have the highest VORP, but they are like the transmission of the car - everyone focuses on the engine, because it's the sexy and exciting part - but try getting somewhere with nothing between the engine and the wheels. This bass player is tying things together with a subtlety and competence that I rarely, rarely hear on rock albums - but when I do get it, it feels like somebody just bought me a beer. Coulda lived without it, but god damn it feels nice.
Next up, comes the guitar playing. I always suppress the urge to judge guitars first, because I'm a guitar player, and it would be too easy to be like "I'ma guitar guy and I like guitar so let's listen to some guitar and see how the guitar sounds and guitaaaaaaaaaaaar!"
First things first, I can tell skill and experience when I hear it. I pretty much have a line with guitar playing, of which 100% of guitar music falls on one side of or the other: better than me or worse than me. I used to be a pretty tight rhythm guitar player and even had a few semi-awesome bands, but in the last, oh, say 10 years, I've mostly been playing for myself in my basement.
Anyways, dear reader, this is here for
Both of the guitarists in this band are playing so tight and together that they're way, way, on the "better than me" side, which is great, because I only listen to bands that play guitar better than me. The two guitarists feel like one guitarist to me - like there's only one guy and he must be recording (overdubbing) both guitar parts in the studio, because nobody could know their other guitar well enough to lock like these two guitar parts on the album. Well, it turns out it is two guitarists. So they must be twin brothers or something (spoiler: they're not) because they lock like...like the violin section of an orchestra --- you know, where 20 players play their part, and it doesn't sound like 20 players, it just sounds like "the violin." The guitar on this album is a lot like that - just a super tight wave of guitar cominatcha. I really respect that about this album (and this band).
The lead guitarist has a lot of memorable riffs, that sound like his own style - not just borrowed from standards and greats. Like I mentioned with the singer, I really like when a band gives you them, not their take on what's selling this year, or their take on what Aerosmith did - you know?
The guitar playing on this album sounds like the perfect fill / accent stuff you hear on a pop song - in how perfectly metered and played it is - not a single millimeter of slop on this entire record. It's amazing, actually. I can point you to at least one good clam on just about every album I have, but not this one. Beauty in execution. Tres magnifique.
Ed. note: I keep trying to write about the rhythm guitar and lead guitar separately, but I can't seem to split this hair. It really does sound like "the guitar section" as opposed to two guys, it's pretty weird, but that's how I hear it.
As far as songwriting goes, this one is all over the map. "604" sounds "post 80s," "The Prestige" sounds like REM wearing sunglasses, "Lost and Found" is "Free Bird" and "Wish You Were Here" rolled into a burrito, and "Protest The Sky" is like Alien Ant Farm sitting in with Tom Petty's Heartbreakers. I'm trying too hard here - this is a band that really sounds like Coloured Animal.
If you want some highly original rock music that doesn't really sound like something you're already listening to, and is primarily characterized by artistic honesty and perfect execution, click here.