Review Summary: ...or how a good three-minute song was made into a disappointing forty-minute album.
It's obvious that Madina Lake aren't aiming to innovate. Sure, they've got a lofty concept on all their albums that involves a famous socialite disappearing from a 1950s fictional town, but Madina Lake are, at best, a pop-punk band. They make succinct catchy songs with hooks bursting out of every melody, not meticulously technical musical opuses. Considering that many
bands of their genre (Anberlin, The Classic Crime) have constructed brilliant albums without ever stepping out of their pop-punk box too far, this is not a negative thing at all -- a good pop-punk record is a good pop-punk record. Unfortunately, this is not what Madina Lake created. The tried-and-true formula that Madina Lake explores on their sophomore release 'Attics to Eden' is irritatingly dull and uninspired; a widely disappointing release, given their potential.
However, before unleashing a firestorm of mediocrity, 'Attics to Eden' starts out relatively promisingly with a quartet of toe-tapping, ear-tickling dance-rock tracks. From the ominous electronic introduction of the anthemic opener, 'Never Take Us Alive', to the key-changing sing-a-long dynamics that dominate the radio-ready track 'Criminals,' Madina Lake work themselves into a catchy niche from the get-go. 'Let's Get Outta Here' and 'Legends' both exhibit bombastic dance-rock choruses, with the latter easily being the strongest track on the record, complete with spiraling synths and a hook guaranteed to habituate in your head for days. At this point, the record has almost taken a convincing stance in making you believe that you're in for a treat. Don't be fooled.
Immediately after 'Criminals,' Madina Lake switches gears and experiments with atrociously insincere balladry -- 'Through the Pain' is nothing more than a laughable power-ballad, instead of the tear-jerking pinnacle of emotional rock that Madina Lake crafted it to be. It turns out, this is indicative of the entire record; the album fails to meet the standard that the band seemed to be confidently aiming for. 'Never Walk Alone' and 'Not For This World' walk the blurry lines between pop-rock anthems and half-hearted filler tune, while cockily swaggering through beat-based verses and cliched lyrics ("I'm not for this world, this world is for you"). The onslaught of mundane songs that embody everything past the first third of the album drags itself into a forgettable sludge of rehashed melodies and structures. It's not necessarily that these songs are bad
songs, it's just that the formula they abide to has already been exercised to the point of annoyance -- you can clearly have too much of a good thing.
Adversely, Madina Lake aren't much better musicians than they are songwriters. As a band, each instrument clicks and feeds off each other nicely, but the performances are so unremarkable that it barely even matters. Occasionally, guitarist Mateo Camargo will provide an almost-memorable riff (see 'Statistic'), but overall, the lasting power of his compositions are far from indelible. Nathan Leone has a capable enough voice, but the in-studio doctoring that was so obviously implemented is endlessly irking because it hampers what could've been an engaging vocal performance (complete with arrogant lyrics). Perhaps the most engaging sections of the forty minutes of 'Attics to Eden' are the littered electronic interludes and digital backdrops, which are rather enticing -- of course, that fact only goes to further showcase the lack of cohesive musicianship.
Putting all of these things into perspective, 'Attics to Eden' is ultimately plagued by uncreative repetition and an ultimate lack of substance. While each song provides a catchy hook-laden structure on it's own, Madina Lake seemed to have lost the concept of an album
-- 'Attics to Eden' plays more like a collection of singles rather than a complete 'concept' album (honestly, you wouldn't even notice the "concept" if I hadn't even mentioned it). The overproduced dance-rock act has been done to death on this record, and while it may translate into a fun live show, the recorded evidence of Madina Lake just isn't convincing.