Review Summary: This is what nineteen years of Achy Breaky Heart will do to you.
“Let’s hunt and kill Billy Ray Cyrus!”, called the legendary comic Bill Hicks in his masterpiece. Rant in E Minor
. A fantastic idea, Bill, but why stop there? Perhaps if the plan had been executed on one Leticia Finlay Cyrus as well, before 1992, we would have never had the misfortune of experiencing his daughter Miley (aka Hannah Montana). To go even further, it would have been logical to take the same plan to action before 1989. If you’re wondering why, all the evidence is right here.
His name is Trace Cyrus. He’s tall, goofy-looking and has an irritating voice. Before you say “chip off the old block”, however, things get worse. He doesn’t make drawling country pop like his dear-old stepdaddy, nor does he make corporate preteen bubblegum like his sweet little half-sister. No, this Cyrus has an infatuation with hipster electropop mixed in with eighties guitar tones and whiney lyrics about girls. Where the hell it came from is anyone’s guess, and it’s even commendable that he is to branch out from the musical family tree. However, after listening to Trace’s band, Metro Station, as well as the subsequent eponymous album, chances are you’ll be wishing he would go right back.
The main issue to be had with Metro Station
overall is that it has the distinct tendency to feel more like a product than an actual work of art. The subject matter is all partying (“I was taken, but you were waiting/One more drink and I’m convinced”), girls (“If she does it like this, will you do it like that?/Come on, shake it!”) and how cool being young is (“We’re not gonna be seventeen forever!”). Whilst timeless subject matters of their own accord, everything that is sung about on the album sounds like it is meant for teens right now in this day and age; most likely a clever ploy on behalf of the songwriters themselves. Also, the incessant use of “whoa”s rivals even the Kaiser Chiefs.
Originality is another key flaw of the album- next to nothing about the band’s sound is unique or distinctive. As vocalists, Cyrus and guitarist Mason Musso are very hard to tell apart- it may even take a YouTube video or two to determine who is actually singing. Both go for unbelievable over-accentuation and heavy sighing, coming off as some Satanic spawn of Say Anything’s Max Bemis and Forever the Sickest Kids’ Jonathan Cook. They have the hooks business down pat, undoubtedly- “Shake It”, the best song on the record, will remain in your head whether you want it there or not- but it usually feels uninspired and forced on their behalf. As for their guitar work, it quite literally never goes beyond a few chords and is hardly even worth the sentence of this review that it gets.
The rhythm section of the band may as well not exist. If Anthony Improgo plays any acoustic drums, as the album credits suggests, then it’s certainly news to the listener. It’s all FL loops and crackles of electronic snare throughout- which would be fine if the band used a drum machine and had not employed an actual drummer. Blake Healy leaves his bass guitar collecting dust for practically the entire affair, manning the all-important synthesizers. Apart from a handful of charming arpeggios and some song-defining patterns (see “Control” in particular), the general consensus is that not a thing can be done to conceal the fact that there is precious little substance to compete with Metro Station’s style.
Whilst fine for party background music (even with a couple of really catchy songs), Metro Station
ultimately fails to show any existential or long-lasting worth or quality. They are left with two choices- improve where necessary and adapt further skill to their instruments, or continue with their current formula and perish. There is every chance of the former happening. Having said that, given this family history? It’s going to be the latter. Just you wait and see.