Review Summary: A killer lead single ultimately leads to disappointment on this barely passable debut album which is contradictorily both too inconsistent & too safe.
When it comes to listening to music, most people would have fallen victim to this common occurrence at least once; You hear the lead single of an unfamiliar band and are impressed immediately. You look the band up and they sound interesting on multiple levels… Even the album reviews are solid. The next thing you know, a copy of said album is in your hands and you are giving it a listen. And then the disappointment sets in.
The story behind Carolina Liar is an interesting one as it sees a 32 year old singer guitarist from South Carolina (Chad Wolf) hook up with 5 Swedes in California… Sort of like an American version of Razorlight. The advantage that the backing musicians’ country of origin has brought to the band is the ability to attract well-known Swedish producer Max Martin, the man behind the likes of Pink, Kelly Clarkson & Britney Spears. Martin’s tweaking of the knobs adds a few different twists and turns to this Alternative Rock band, but how many of them are for the better is arguable.
The aforementioned lead single ‘I’m Not Over’, also acts as this debut album’s opener. While not being the most innovative song of all time, a case can be made that this is one of the best singles of 2008! Complete with hooky guitars and a catchy anthemic chorus, this cut deftly balances radio accessibility with a genuine rock nature. Unfortunately, nothing else on ‘Coming To Terms’ gets close to the quality of ‘I’m Not Over’.
In truth, this album is an old-fashioned two-sided vinyl kind of LP… Except in reverse. The first half of the album is very different to the latter half, but those more experimental songs which were usually found towards the end of a track listing, take up tracks 2 - 6 here. Second single ‘Show Me What I’m Looking For’ adds cheesy religious-sounding lyrics to choral backing vocals, while the stab at new-wave that is ‘Last Night’ undoubtedly becomes a contender for most derivative song of the year as it unashamedly rips off a number of songs from The Killers in their ‘Hot Fuss’ era.
Wolf must take a lot of the blame for the album’s weaknesses as he had a hand in writing all tracks. For the most part, the songwriting does not capitalize on the apparent potential, meaning many of the cuts end up too bland or safe. Furthermore, the writing occasionally gets very lazy, with the title track padding out its final minute with a barrage of “na na na na’s”. Worse still is track 6 ‘All That $hit Is Gone’, which amazingly follows up the song title in its chorus with the inappropriate & cringe-worthy line of “la la la la”. Anyone would think Carolina Liar had a yearning to be The Kaiser Chiefs!
As much as the first half of ‘Coming To Terms’ is an incohesive mess, the album is made passable by a latter half which settles down and sees Carolina Liar remain within their limitations. Most cuts still play it way too safe to be anything approaching exciting, but superior melodies should eventually win listeners over. Track 7 ‘California Bound’ is the best of the rest, as keyboards are utilized well to give this rocker a positive & up-beat vibe. Elsewhere, ‘Beautiful World’ and ‘Better Alone’ may bring the tempo down a notch or two, but nothing is lost when it comes to catchy melodies.
Ultimately, ‘Coming To Terms’ is a disappointing debut from Carolina Liar, even if it displays an abundance of potential that should see the band improve in the future. It is difficult to pin down and rate due to its initially inconsistent nature contradictorily being combined with a predominantly safe & radio-friendly rock sound not too dissimilar to that of Nickelback. For that reason, the appeal of this album will come down to individual listeners. One thing that is for certain is that if you do not like ‘I’m Not Over’, then you will not like this album. Unfortunately, the reverse will not automatically hold true.
Recommended Tracks: I’m Not Over, California Bound & Beautiful World.