Review Summary: The band hesitantly follows their predecessors and comes out with a great album.”First it comes on quiet, creeping slow; clever words and phrases only stain…my masterpiece will fall apart; it was over before the start…entirely guilty by design.”
Such words can be found on the opener of Marianas Trenches’ sophomore album. Turning a blind eye to the band’s relationship aspect of their lyrics, one could probably take this as a self-referencing joke about the pop punk genre. Green Day took a more bombastic approach to this style of music on 2004’s American Idiot
; My Chemical Romance followed suite in 2006 with The Black Parade
; to a lesser extent, Sum 41 tried to join the ranks of these bands with 2007’s Underclass Hero
. These albums contained many throwbacks to the classic rock greats of the 70s and 80s - as well as a certain variety in length and build of the album’s song structures. I guess you could call Masterpiece Theater
the next attempt at a pop punk-type opera of an opus, and in some ways, it displays a band that rises above its predecessors.
Over the past year, this album has been making waves in Canada. The album’s three charting singles make a catchy run from track two to four. While Marianas Trenches’ musical ambitions are high for this album, they don’t exactly try to stretch things in the way of the lyrics. Josh Ramsay has a very passionate delivery when it comes to his vocals, and when he belts: ”Did you say please just follow me; I thought you wanted me, cause I want you all to myself,
” You’re bound to be caught singing along with his hard to match tone. “Beside You” displays those classic rock influences mentioned above in the form of the over-the-top harmonies that compliment – well actually, more like drench – the chorus. This brings up an odd characteristic that should be mentioned about this album: initial listens to Masterpiece Theater
will raise an eyebrow, offset some, and possibly cause revulsion in listeners; however, subsequent listens do bring enjoyment as the initial surprise of the harmonies and Josh’s vocals soon begin to settle into the area of the norm and familiar.
The second half of the album is a bit more ballad-driven. “Good To You” and “Lover Dearest” are syrupy in the way of intimate emotions and production values. The prior features a Top 40 pop approach in delivery and even carries a duet between the lead singer and Kate Voegele. Fortunately, these songs and the aforementioned “Beside You” are the only instances where the band tries to get too
intimate; no offense to the boys, but I strongly believe their talents lie in the energetic jaunts as exampled by “All To Myself” and “Celebrity Status”. John is not meant to sing ballads; well, at least those that are written in this format.
So where American Idiot
had “Jesus of Suburbia,” and The Black Parade
had its title track, what exactly causes this album to be categorized with the work of those bands? The title track of Masterpiece Theater
is divided into three parts and acts as the foundational backbone for the album. Part one creeps in with some foreboding strings and starts things off with a blatant set of Queen-styled harmonies from the boys. A picked guitar riff underlies Josh before a relatively hard pop punk riff sets the extremely catchy chorus into motion. As I already alluded to, this piece acts as an ironic statement in relation to the band’s genre, as well as an obvious relationship metaphor. The ending of part one switches things up and recalls Green Day’s random changes within song structures with a hard-hitting riff that comes out of nowhere but quickly settles down to be continued out in part two. The second part of the piece acts as an appropriate interlude for the album and repeats the antics of part one – albeit, in a more subtle way. Part three is a real treat. Digitalized rain drops play under the vocals, and as the melody picks up in intensity, a sweeping and driving set of strings sets the closer into motion. Part three acts as a reprise of all
the tracks on the album; bits and pieces of the songs are mixed in with the catchy and cinematic part one as well. The album closes on a marching drum beat – ala The Black Parade
– and John innocently ends on the ironic line: ”…I don’t know how it got this way.”
Marianas Trench takes a brave step with this sophomore album. Going the bombastic route can either cripple a band, or as has so far been the case, break the band in a more positive sense. Since the band has chosen not to go too far into a showman-type of pretense – overtly political lyrics, odd metaphors, and musical attempts that they just couldn’t have possibly done - it’s fair to say they fall into the latter category and succeed for the most part. The ballads here are a bit too syrupy however, and as a alluded to above, Josh’s vocals are an acquired taste. As far as a general appeal to listeners, that’s really all that hold’s this band back though. It will be interesting to see how the boys choose to follow up this pop punk opera
; will they follow Green Day’s cue and try to recreate it again, or will they got the route of My Chemical Romance and attempt to return to their routes next time around? Only time will tell.