Review Summary: Soasin offer their brand of catchy, energetic music, but it's woefully handcuffed by obvious patterns and formulas.
Back when post-hardcore was arguably at its peak in 2003, Saosin was one of the biggest bands of the genre. After word spread around about their stellar EP Translating the Name
, fans couldn’t get enough, the anticipation grew and grew to hear a full-length from the band. But by the time the boys found a new singer, released yet another EP, and strung people along with numerous demos, it was nearly three years later until the band finally dropped their debut album. Was it well worth the wait?
When you listen to Saosin’s self-titled debut, it’s hard to deny their talent: they have a strong, driven post-hardcore sound laced with catchy lead guitar and vocal lines. After a listen or two, however, the observant listener can make the case that most of these songs follow the same pattern. Indeed, there is such a thing as a “Saosin song”: an explosive intro that introduces the main lead guitar line, a sullen & atmospheric verse dense with back-up vocal harmonies, and then a hammering chorus with a catchy vocal line and plenty of busy drum-fills. Baring some key variations, of course, most songs follow the same formula, and after the catchiness wears off, you’re not left with much to sink your teeth into.
That’s not to say that Saosin’s full-length debut is bad, but you can’t really make a case to say that it’s very good. Although every song on this album has obviously been laboured over, and every song has some form of hook to get you back for a second listen, the only thing really distinguishing individual songs is the vocal hook. On that criteria, “Follow and Feel”, “Sleepers”, “Bury Your Head” and “It’s Far Better To Learn” are the stand-outs, but you can make a case for any song since it all boils down to one element. I will also give Saosin some credit for having some more sullen songs, such as “You’re Not Alone” and “I Never Wanted To”, as they help break some familiarity between tracks. Every song is well-done, and there’s a good chance that you’ll find some favourites out of the bunch, but again, there’s hardly any substance to be found.
But the most deplorable element of this album is not the repeatable patterns and formulas, but the reuse of old material: roughly half of the songs on this album are re-recorded demos along with some re-done songs from their 2005 EP, leaving only a few brand-new songs. Not only that, but one can even make a case that some “new” songs are just re-hashes of old ideas (“Some Sense of Security”, for example, sounds a lot like “Translating the Name” from their 2003 EP). For a band that took an awfully long time to release their first full-length, there is an astonishing lack of all-new material to be found, which is very despicable to say the least.
But despite all the issues, Saosin’s first full-length is a commendable effort. Disregarding the integrity issues of the material, the music is enjoyable enough for a listen every now and again, since the hooks are so finely crafted and the music is so tightly-knit. Every song on the album is good enough for a listen or two, but I’m willing to believe that most will get very tired of the winning Saosin formula only after a few short listens.