Review Summary: If you're looking for a breakthrough pop-punk album, keep looking... But this is still worth your time for a listen or two.
At a glance, Albatross, by The Classic Crime, could be passed off as just another pop punk release from just another christian-but not really-band under Tooth and Nail records. And, I guess, that assumption wouldn't be too far off. But The Classic Crime seems to be able to pull off that persona quite effectively. They must be doing something right, because with this record, they did have the best first week of album sales of all of the bands on the T&N label. However, there doesn't seem to be much that separates them, musically, from bands such as Anberlin and Fall Out Boy. But in my opinion, they do have something that merits my attention above those others...or at least a second thought. I might go as far as to associate them with bands with considerable more creativity, like Copeland, and Mae. Especially if you consider their latest release, Seattle Sessions, which may or may not be a departure from their pop punk ways. But I will save that for later. As for this album...
As I mentioned, musically speaking, there's nothing really special here. There's something very "pop" about this record. Most of the songs follow the same structure, until the last two tracks, which provide for a nice change of pace. Up until then, every song seems painfully similar...most consisting of palm muted verses, soft bridges, and catchy, repeating, choruses. Some songs are really repetitive. Blisters and Coffee is a prime example of the repetitive nature of these songs. The first two verses are copy-paste replicas of one another. If it weren't for the hooks in the chorus and Matt MacDonald's growing passion throughout the song, it wouldn't even be worth listening to. But that brings me to a possitive aspect of this band's sound: Matt's vocals. He reminds me of the vocalist from Fall Out Boy. But I never have, and never intend to listen to Fall Out Boy. But this guy is different. I can credit that fact to Matt's obvious dedication to his art. You really can tell this man cares about what he's singing about, which is more than I can say for FOB. And for that, I respect him.
As for the rest of his band, the next deserving of mention is Paul Erickson, the drummer. Although the drumming on this album isn't anything to get excited over, it does keep things interesting. The guitarist aren't anything special either. They do have their good moments such as The Fight, Blisters and Coffee, and We All Look Elsewhere. They make good use of both guitars most of the time, either playing distinctly different parts or harmonizing nicely. At least they know what their doing. The bass however, can rarely be heard and follows the guitars, which I guess is typical for this genre. But I've never really paid much attention to bass. Overall, I think the focus on the vocals is what really makes this band sound so catchy. The production is done very nicely. Every instrument, with the exception of the bass, sounds really good. They blend together to make a nice solid sound, without sounding too simple. However, the vocals are always the main vocus. Matt is always at the front of the sound, matched only a few times with backing vocals (usually overdubs of himself singing harmony). Lately, I've listened to bands such as Saosin and Story of the Year which feature strong harmony parts by other members of the band. I've really began to appriciate that. It makes for really good live performances, and keeps things interesting. I like Matt's vocals, but I'd prefer to hear someone else singing harmony to give it a little color.
This band does have some advantages over it's fellow pop punk ensembles. The seem to be able to maintain a lyrical creativity that's rare to their scene. They're not poets. But usually, they're getting their point across in a way that can pass as original. Almost every song has a hopeful message behind it, with the exception of We All Look Elsewhere, which still isn't really that dark...just a little pessimistic. Some lyrics get a little repetitive though. The phrase "my heart" occurs too many times to be considered anything but cliche. But most material gets it's positive idea across without sounding too trite...which happens a lot with this sort of band. Some parts strike me as genuinly profound, and even bold, such as the backing vocals sung over the last chorus of Who Needs Air:
"I have come to the realization that life is more than what I have accomplished.
And life is more than the realization that we have accomplished nothing at all.
True success is so selfless, so drown in the lyrics of your life and give up the air that you breathe.
You don’t need anything."
I couldn't really understand what he was singing until I looked it up. But when I read it, it didn't sound like the rest of the lyrics to any of the songs on this album. They really sound like a true epiphany. However, some parts of the cd could pass as cheesy worship music at a sunday mass in a conservative, rural church...If you disagree...believe me...I've seen it.
For me, this album served as my own departure from my long-time pop punk addiction. This was the last cd I'd really listened to before moving on to a more progressive lifestyle. But I don't regret listening to it in the least and I frequently revisit these catchy tunes. But I've broadened my horizons...and apparently so has this band. Their Seattle Sessions EP features a greater list of influences, such as folk, jazz, blues, etc. But whatever they've extended to, they've progressed and evolved a lot. It will be interesting to see if they return to their poppy roots or if that EP is just a pit-stop in their development. From their description of it on thier myspace, I got the impression it was not a permanent departure. I guess we'll see.
This is my first review. Please provide feedback.