Review Summary: They're only chasing safety...
Like most other bands that want to pretend that a 14-year-old suburban kid actually cares about how they derived their sound, new Texas pop-punk band Ivoryline has a list of bands on their MySpace that purportedly have had a great influence on them. There are some artists on this list – Jimmy Eat World, U2, Refused – that actually make some sense; the remainder is either a joke I am too sleep-deprived to pick up on or laughable hyperbole. The Mars Volta? Daft Punk? Converge? Really?
Now I think we can all agree those are laudable influences, but c'mon guys, let's be honest: the answer we're looking for here is actually, “Pretty much every popular pop-punk or melodic rock band of the last ten years.”
That’s right; if originality is the name of the game here, well, then you’ll probably want to bypass this disc, bucko. There Came A Lion
almost literally brings nothing new to the table and there are bands that do Ivoryline’s sort of thing a bit better. But the catch is…well, the hooks; the hooks are catchy. And multiple times throughout the disc, Ivoryline is able to string together several of these catchy hooks in succession in a span of about three-and-a-half minutes; this is also what is known as a “good song.” There Came A Lion
is so safe and controlled that it’s impossible to know if the band actually has a promising future or not. But if the point of the disc was to not embarrass themselves or to get kids saying “Well…that’s just fine” during their twenty-minute opening slot for Armor for Sleep, well, then Ivoryline has succeeded here.
The strength of the band unquestionably are the vocals of Jeremy Gray, who is one of the most polished young vocalists to come out in a while. At times sounding like a dead ringer for Saosin’s Cove Reber, at others Anberlin’s Stephen Christian, Gray is able to consistently deliver a high register with passion and intensity. Granted, this high note is the only note he really sings on the record, but, by God, is he good at it. The thing is, it’s sort of a blessing and curse on this record, as someone, somewhere – whether it be a desperate Tooth & Nail label eager to find a flagship band to replace Anberlin and Mae or some other lazy fiend – figured out that an album built solely to showcase Gray’s vocals couldn’t fail. Furthermore, any attempts to branch out and experiment with said formula would be risky and potentially unwise!
This is why it’s tough to figure out if Ivoryline has any real staying power. Is the band backing Gray just an assemblage of competent yet mediocre hacks or are they just not real motivated here? Is Gray himself only capable of hitting one note? Could he perhaps do better lyrically than sing ”Liars outside your window-oh-oh, doh-oh-oh”
at the end of “All You Ever Hear”? It seems we’ll have to wait for album #2 to figure out these pressing questions. At any rate, what ends up happening to There Came A Lion
is a sound resembling a less technical Saosin or a male-fronted Paramore or a less metrosexual Acceptance or a 30 Seconds to Mars led by a vocalist who could actually hit all the notes he tried to reach or a…well, the list goes on. Bottom line: Ivoryline is mighty formulaic and as much as they’d like you to believe that their inspiration comes directly from Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, there’s just a little bit of evidence that suggests that's not the case.
However, within the confines of their formula, Ivoryline navigates things pretty well. There are no legitimately bad songs on There Came A Lion
and there are a few tracks such as “Bravery” and “All You Ever Hear” that suggest the band is fully capable of challenging heavyweights of the genre such as Fall Out Boy and Paramore. ”Our complacency won’t last much longer,”
sings Gray on album opener “Days End.” Let’s certainly hope so.
All You Ever Hear