The Rocket Summer
Of Men and Angels


2.0
poor

Review

by Adam Knott EMERITUS
March 29th, 2010 | 11 replies | 6,218 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Around about the time track two ends, it's likely you will have stopped believing.

The Rocket Summer were always a guilty pleasure in the truest sense of the word: it was never so much the issue that others would mock you for playing their songs - although there was certainly an element of that involved - but more that you personally felt slightly dirty for digging through clichés and cheesy grins to get to the undeniably superb hooks and the odd truly worthwhile song. It just always seemed like the power-pop guitars and happy-go-lucky pianos were hiding enough potential to justify the continued treasure hunt that is their back catalogue. Of Men And Angels maintains the same guilt-ridden listening experience as before, amping up the enthusiasm and relying more than ever on choruses and handclaps, but this time it harbours a sharper edge, because Bryce Avary's 2010 release also finds me feeling like I've been wasting my time.

It's probably got something to do with the hype that Avery projected onto his fourth studio album prior to release; in an interview with ArtistDirect he said, "I tried to write great songs that would hopefully strike a chord with different people that I haven't beforeâ€"really honest songs." This is a small-time chat from an artist with not much true mainstream exposure so it would be unfair to read too much into his words but it's clear from the record's big cover art and its huge (and sappy) title that this is no transitional record for Avary, which would go a long way to explaining why it's also such a disappointment. For a long time it's been fair game to pass his shortcomings as a musician or songwriter off as fixable or minor details, but on Of Men And Angels those faults come screeching to the front of almost every song and it's too difficult to ignore or explain away.

Avary is clearly respectably talented; every note on Of Men And Angels was composed and recorded by the baby-voiced 27-year-old, and he produced the album to boot. These are admirable traits because there is very little wrong with this collection of songs in those respects; the mixing and execution of the ideas on display are both top-notch and at the least deserve recognition, however simple a task they sometimes become - this is light-hearted pop-rock, after all. Unfortunately, there's a lack of general substance which renders these positive aspects almost irrelevant. Take third track 'Hills and Valleys' as your example; it hosts the major chords and melodies we've come to expect, coupled with cute piano twinkles, handclaps and infectious backing vocals. On its own it's difficult to deny the enjoyment factor, but in context... those same backing vocals were in the previous song too. It's a few more major chords to add to his collection. And the piano's not impressive enough to distance itself from the million other times it pops up.

And then there's the lyrics. Listen to me, Bryce Avary: there is nothing wrong with being optimistic. I mean that. But Jesus, Bryce. Jesus Christ. The first six tracks of Of Men And Angels are as follows:

"Keep hooooolding on!"
"You gotta believe!"
"There's gold ahead! There's golden dreams!"
"Stop fearing death and never look back!"
"Believe you me, you are not alone!"
"This is a brand new day!"


That's not even mentioning 'Japanese Exchange Student' which is a surprisingly awful and awkward slice of lyricism from a man whose communication is usually at the very least honest. He complains about not being able to get backstage with Beyoncé less than a minute into the track and you've just got to turn it off by the time that he's disappointed Paul McCartney won't come to his party. It was always a cornerstone of The Rocket Summer's appeal that Avary's songwriting was carefree, like Something Corporate without the emotional baggage or at least with the ability to ignore it. But a few times on Of Men And Angels Avary stumbles into accidental self-parody and the rest of the time he's largely platitudinous, coming off as inspired more by Chad Kroeger than the Christian deity he spends much of his time writing about. Fortunately there are points at which he redeems himself like when he sings, I know it's not too sexy that I'm singing about the blessings that we get in highlight 'Nothing Matters'. He's still got it in bits and pieces, but they're few and far between.

Of Men And Angels suffers in most instances from being too narrow both in terms of sonic approach and songwriting, and it's also disappointingly predictable for the majority of its runtime. You know, like I did, that the title-track will start supported by just a piano. You know, like I did, that 'Hey!' will be upbeat and fist-punching, even if it does evolve into a noteworthy and riotous offering that's undoubtedly a standout. That's the thing: Bryce Avary still knows how to write a good pop-rock track and in the album's latter stages the volume and intensity are increased to good effect, but by that point it's too little, too late; the damage has been done.

It's almost the kind of album you feel guilty for criticising so heavily because it will obviously brighten up countless fifteen-year-olds' days and inspire five-minute fits of optimism in plenty of hopeful pop-rock lovers. But Avary had always hinted at possessing something more than that simplistic appeal, and after Of Men And Angels, harmless as it may be, it's suddenly difficult to hold expectations of anything truly great from his future output. I'm always happy to be proven wrong, but right now I'll state firmly that I know, out of men and angels, where Bryce Avary and, in turn, The Rocket Summer belong.



Recent reviews by this author
Mumford and Sons BabelAbel (NY) Make It Right
The Gaslight Anthem HandwrittenMotion City Soundtrack Go
Sigur Ros ValtariSilversun Pickups Neck of the Woods
user ratings (39)
Chart.
2.9
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
Knott-
Emeritus
March 30th 2010



10193 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

GAYYYYYYYYY the formatting with the centred lyrics. fixing. there might be typos here it's quite long. if there are gimme a shout. album is ugh.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
March 30th 2010



20800 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I was just reading a review about this in a magazine & wondered why it had yet to be reviewed here.

Good stuff Adam. Probably a paragraph too long, but whatever.

This is just one guy yeah? If so, referring to The Rocket Summer as "their" in the intro seems strange, but I guess it's technically correct.

Brokenjewel
March 30th 2010



1247 Comments


Brilliant review.


Checked out Japanese Exchange Student for a laugh. Painfully terrible.

Knott-
Emeritus
March 30th 2010



10193 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

yeah it is davey. i hadn't introduced him as the sole member yet (i never properly do, just in the third paragraph it should be kinda obvious) so i thought saying 'him' would be odd. idk.

i think youre right about the length too, but i had to justify finally giving up on this project and didnt want it to seem like a flippant review, so i wrote as much as i felt i had to.

cheers brokenjewel. yeah, it's pretty cringe.

Douglas
March 30th 2010



8984 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Disappointed in this album

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
March 30th 2010



20800 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Adam, dare I ask, but are there any comparisons with Owl City for this guy?

Knott-
Emeritus
March 30th 2010



10193 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Haha for some reason the comparison doesn't really work. They're both a little bit gay, sound 15, write cheesy lyrics sometimes. But Avary avoids electronics for a start and sticks to a piano and anthemic guitars. There are probably similarities but in my head they don't go very far.

bloc
March 30th 2010



34489 Comments


Great summary

Digging: Gamma Ray - Empire of the Undead

steevo
September 14th 2010



1 Comments


I would have to really disagree. I know a song like "Japanese Exchange Student" isn't what you hear everyday. It is very different. I think that's what makes Bryce shine. He is just all over the place. And no, I'm not a 15 year old girl. I'm 24 and I understand the music on a deeper level. I was never an exchange student, but I did have exchange students and I know how they felt-just like Bryce was talking about. But I can even relate to it. When you're just so nice to people and the only want to talk to you when they want something. I think most of us have felt this way at some point of our lives. I think this album is pretty deep and true to the heart. There has never been a song from The Rocket Summer that I've met that I didn't like.

Like I said, he's all over the place. And I'm excited to see what's next. It's actually, quite unpredictable. TRS may have a small fan base-but we're hard core fans and can relate on a certain level because of it. It's actually pretty cool.

But everyone is entitled to their own opinions- I just wanted to speak out. I really believe that Bryce tries to relate to all his fan and others and sing about the true things, about life-about feelings. And what a wonderful role model he is. We definitely need more of him these days.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
August 27th 2012



20800 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Following the superb 'Do You Feel', one can't help but be a little disappointed with The Rocket Summer's 4th LP 'Of Men and Angels'. That's not to say that this faith-driven album is bad, it just doesn't reach the peaks of its predecessor, while also containing some filler during its overlong 55 minutes. As always, Bryce Avary plays practically every instrument & there's lots of optimistically catchy power-pop to sing along to. It's just that the distinctive passion that sets Avary apart seems more predictable here. Fans will still find plenty to enjoy though. Recommended Tracks: Of Men and Angels, I Need a Break..., Hills and Valleys & You Gotta Believe.

KjSwantko
February 11th 2014



8717 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Higher, and higher
I wanna go there with you
Some say your fire, your fire, is through
I don't wanna think that way

....bad album as a whole, but a few really good songs.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2013 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy