Review Summary: Gradual growth results in some inconsistency, yet Billy Talent’s underlying passion and ability to turn almost any style of song into a crowd-pleasing anthem, eventually wins out.
With punk band Billy Talent’s self-titled debut LP containing more hooks than a fisherman’s tackle box, one could have expected that record labels and the almighty dollar would have had their way when it came to the Canadian quartet’s follow-up. With bands such as Good Charlotte, Sum 41 and Simple Plan reaching heights beyond their talent, it almost seemed like a foregone conclusion that the band with the screeching lead singer would head towards the radio-friendly masses. Yet, for the most part, Billy Talent resists the temptation and sticks to their guns.
In fact, the opening few tracks (and singles) on the plainly titled ‘Billy Talent II’ suggest anything but poppy leanings. Electric opener ‘Devil In A Midnight Mass’ begins with ominous sounding and frenetic guitar that seems more (glam-)metal than anything else, before lead vocalist Ben Kowalewicz lets out a scream that fans would already be familiar with. Come chorus time, the trademark call and response vocals also return, with an alternating whispered and screamed breakdown topping off the cut effectively.
The following ‘Red Flag’ then immediately defines “anthemic punk” with an infectious sing-along chorus that is ably assisted by an exaggerated drum-beat. And when 5th single ‘This Suffering’ comes along at track 3 and impressively blends a more conventional rock sound with the band’s base punk traits, one has to wonder if Billy Talent are somehow going to better their fantastic debut.
One thing that the Canadians have done well here is found that nice balance of growth and still giving fans what they want. The inconsistent mid-section of ‘II’ displays this with individual tracks likely to be judged differently depending on the listener. Wisely however, there should be something for everyone in amongst the mix, whether it’s the bass-driven ‘Worker Bees’, methodical ‘Pins and Needles’, catchy 3rd single ‘Fallen Leaves’, or lyrically interesting ‘Covered in Cowardice’, which highlights the growing trend of internet bullying.
Of course, also part of such growth is for the band to explore their poppier/mainstream side. Three tracks especially do this and will more than likely be divisive. ‘Where Is The Line?’ and ‘Perfect World’ progress predictably both vocally and musically, while ballad ‘Surrender’ surprisingly brings sweet harmonies to the foreground. Those listeners unimpressed by these efforts need not fear however, as the album ends relatively strong with the catchy ‘In The Fall (The Navy Song)’, backing-vocal heavy ‘Sympathy’ and impressively melodic ‘Burn The Evidence’, which switches tempo throughout.
‘Billy Talent II’ may not have the consistently high level of winning hooks or memorable songs as its predecessor, but it still contains a more than sufficient amount of musical, vocal and lyrical highlights to satisfy Billy Talent’s fans. By exhibiting gradual growth on this follow-up LP, the results are a little more hit and miss, yet the band’s underlying passion and ability to turn almost any style of song into a crowd-pleasing anthem, eventually wins out.
Recommended Tracks: Red Flag, This Suffering, Fallen Leaves & Devil In A Midnight Mass.
The problem I have with Billy Talent is that all of their songs sound the same. I due respect them for their obvious passion with how long they have been touring but it seems to me that they are a one trick pony who's trick isn't that great.
That's a fair criticism Brandon and one I touched on in the review of their debut (I didn't feel it was necessary to bring it back up in detail here). The style of music on 'II' probably lends itself a little more to the weakness being prevalent, but I personally do not think it is anywhere near overwhelming.
BUT with each passing album, one does have to wonder how long they can keep plowing the same ground. Hence why their next LP will indeed be interesting.
Marko, that is no way to teach someone a new language. But if you're asking how I am today, I am fine.
its just the general translations to English. They obviously aren't interpreted in Croatian that way.
Actually you think about it most languages that are converted word by word in English don't make sense at all and only work within that certain language (for this it would be Slavic as in Russian, Slovenian, Croatian, Serbian, lots although not all of them have the exact same translations and dialects.)
On another note I watched Star Trek tonight and it was great. Wrapped everything nicely, loved the balance of comedy and action.
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Brent, 'Red Flag' is by far the most catchy song on here. That's why Billy Talent use it as their gig closer. However, there are still other catchy songs on this album... Just not as manyh as on their debut. Album is at least worth checking out when you get a chance.
Brandon, that is interesting to know and I can imagine that over-playing may have watered them down. Anything resembling punk would never be over-played in Australia, even one of our own like The Living End.
jingledeath, you are not alone with that opinion that this is a better album, but I don't see/hear it myself. The only thing I can think of is that the music & vocals are more restrained. I am interested if that is your reasoning...
It is funny you would think with all the ethnic problems that Yugoslavia faced would be difficult. But honestly its like in America every problem in the past is put to rest in one way or another because, well we're in America and no one gives a shit. Of course because of the Balkan Wars things are extremely tense with all the Ex-Yugoslavian countries, mainly people around there despise Serbians. My best friend is a Serb, the irony of the whole thing; and if Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia all advance to the South Africa WC it will be a huge riot. Serbia will probably win their group, Bosnia is looking good and so is Croatia.This Message Edited On 05.12.09
Well, thanks for that history lesson Marko, but I just want to know how to say "hello", "please", "thanks", "one", "two", "three" and "big mac".
And LOL re: the World Cup. Imagine Croatia & Serbia in the same group? It would be a "bring your own weapons" cage match.
Yeah jingledeath, the vocals are clearly more restrained here. There is no real "What you see is what you get" moment. Having said that, Ben's voice is still polarizing & I think many casual listeners would still be put off.