Review Summary: Ryan Malcolm, of Canadian Idol "fame", releases an album with his new group that's one part Killers, one part Snow Patrol, and one part disposable. An entirely forgettable release by an easily forgettable artist.
I don't think I can ever fully prepare myself for what I'm about to listen to. This album sits in front of me in its slip-case packaging, the cover a simple pose by the band. To most, it's your average promo for the average band, and I can't deny that. But, there are a few reasons why I'm having trouble putting the actual disc into my computer. Firstly, this is no 'ordinary' group. While lead singer Ryan Malcolm is more or less the definition of ordinary, it's his past that's troubling me. For those who aren't aware, let me bring you up to speed with a little word association:
Simon Cowell. Kelly Clarkson. Farley Flex. Simon Fuller. Kalan Porter.
If you haven't yet figured out where I'm headed, well, crawl out from that rock you've been living under. I am, of course, talking about Idol, the phenomenon that's now made its presence known in over 30 countries. Ryan Malcolm is the winner of the first season of Canadian Idol, and has proved to be more or less useless since the victory. Sure, his debut single went four times platinum (somehow) and stayed #1 on the Canadian singles chart for 14 weeks (somehow), but can any of my fellow Canadians say they actually remember what the song sounds like?
Regardless of all this, I'm worried for what I'm looking at, fearing what exactly I might hear. This is Ryan's new venture, a band that goes by the name of Low Level Flight. The album is Urgency, and that's cool I guess, but the cover...that's where my worries start. The cover is, as I said earlier, fairly standard; dimly lit, as the three members of the group are by no means attractive; each member clad in black, striking a pose I can only presume is supposed to come off as mysterious. Ryan is obviously the focus, standing in the middle, and he's also the reason I'm worried. Even before pressing play, I can imagine what this will probably sound like based on the cover. Ryan stands in an awkward pose, his thinning faux-hawk accompanied by black pants, a black shirt and a white belt (with a wallet chain). I can tell by this –along with the other two members who've since been replaced in the background–that I'm in for a pretty unassuming listen.
So, I finally press play. The question is this...Was I right?
Twenty seconds in, I'm instantly gratified. Change for Me
, the first single, is like a rejected Killers B-Side with a falsetto plagued chorus so generic that even Good Charlotte would hesitate to steal it. Lyrically, it's mildly interesting; it takes the "she cheated on me" cliché on an interesting route, as it would seem Ryan's girlfriend cheated on him with a woman. As he whines, "why would you change sides", I can't help but laugh. Ryan may not be the most talented musician, but I can't help but chuckle at the thought of him turning a woman off heterosexuality.
This is intended to be Ryan's attempt at "real" music. Unsatisfied with his "pop" career, much like the labels were with its sales, Ryan decided to self-finance (and by self-finance, I mean let the Canadian Government pay for it) his own project. Apparently, the project Ryan has always wanted to make dates as far back as 2002; Low Level Flight are almost exclusively a cover band. In many instances, Ryan pairs the trademark Killers sound (you know, the sound made famous by better bands twenty years ago) with clichéd radio rock choruses, not unlike what you'd hear from the Fray or Snow Patrol or whoever else is on Grey's Anatomy this week.
In other tracks, like Turnaround
, the "band" takes a stab at clichéd piano-rock; a simplistic piano backdrop, flimsy guitars and layered and ultimately forgettable vocals. Holiday
is actually not a terrible track. Complete with a racing high-hat, slight reggae touches and a chorus programmed exclusively for driving around, Holiday
is also the only track where the guitars don't sound puny, but fear not, because Ryan's voice still does.
When the lyrics aren't putting very slight twists on mainstream clichés, they go the self-deprecating route. On the third track, When Will I Learn
, Ryan explains that he cuts himself just to bleed.
You'll notice that throughout this review I refer to this as the work of a person rather than a band. The reason is that having two dudes pose behind him can't change the fact that Ryan Malcolm is inarguably the focus of Low Level Flight. Beyond that, some eye make-up and a wallet chain can't change the fact that, in the end, he still isn't all that interesting. Sure, it's not as weak as I'd have hoped, but in the end it just comes off as worship and tribute to virtually every sound currently found on the radio. I suppose starting his musical career off on Canadian Idol was his biggest mistake, because he's essentially been knocking people off since he picked up a microphone.
Don't waste your time on this.