Review Summary: The Paramore phenomenon spreads down under.
When one thinks of predominant musical influences over time, the usual array of artists tend to get named; Dylan, Hendrix, Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, et al… Time is likely to play a significant factor in such listings however, with the level of esteem heaped upon artists such as Madonna, Radiohead and The Strokes arguably still to be determined. If one was to take a time machine into the future and look back on the final years of the noughties, it would be interesting to see which musicians stood the test of time and significantly influenced future peers. One potential wild-card is pop-punk quintet Paramore… Or more specifically; Hayley Williams, since one could make a case that the Tennessean outfit and their flame-haired lead vocalist have not only reinvigorated a genre’s push to mainstream popularity, but the plight of female-fronted rock bands in general.
Paramore’s influence is by no means isolated to North America either, with similar groups sprouting up all around the world. At the forefront of the Australian scene is young Sydney quintet Tonight Alive. Fronted by blonde teenager Jenna McDougall – a grounded and affable vocalist who gives the impression that she would always have a smile on her face – the band play a catchy and polished brand of rocky pop-punk. While the group may attempt to distance themselves from Paramore by citing the likes of New Found Glory, Rufio, Lagwagon and Thrice as their major influences, the comparison is simply too strong to ignore… And it really is one which Tonight Alive should be proud of and embrace.
Containing 8 tracks and lasting a touch over 24 minutes, the band’s promising debut release ‘All Shapes & Disguises’, is officially classified as an EP. Opener ‘To Die For’ gives listeners a good indication as to what they are in store for; slick, melodic guitars and punchy drums, all wrapped up in a competently produced and catchy package. Infectious lead single ‘Wasting Away’ is the EP’s highlight, finding the best balance between poppy hooks and a slightly aggressive edge to their musicianship. Never over technical, the four guys in charge of the instrumental components of Tonight Alive will not astound, but - like their Paramore counterparts – are proficient and occasionally surprise with impressive conviction.
Inevitably, much of the attention surrounding Tonight Alive will be focused out front, and McDougall easily holds up her end of the bargain. Unafraid to test her vocal range, she often sounds close to Williams’ equal, but is disconcertingly pitchy on occasions. For someone still in her teenage years however, it is certainly an extremely promising display. Her adequate lyrics are predictably relationship-based for the most part, but rarely plummet to deplorable depths. The trite ‘Invincible’ may be one exception (“I am invincible woh oh, as long as I’m in love with you”), and is additionally a missed opportunity at greater variety since an acoustic version is only included as a bonus track. Elsewhere on that front, ‘Closer’ adds extra synths to neutral effect, while ‘My Favourite Thing’ includes some structural diversity to mixed results. The band fare better with subtle adjustments; especially on the catchy cover of Rufio’s 2001 cut ‘In My Eyes’, and the male backing vocals used on the killer chorus of ‘Rooftop To The Street’.
Ultimately, ‘All Shapes & Disguises’ does what a good debut release should do… It not only establishes the band’s sound and exposes it to a larger audience, but does so in an entertaining manner which should delight pop-punk devotees. Tonight Alive simply know how to make fun and catchy songs… And importantly, it seems to come naturally to them. ‘All Shapes & Disguises’ is not going to change the face of music and is certainly not something that hasn’t been heard before. Yet, at the quintet’s tender age, who is to say they cannot approach that status in the future? The room for improvement factor here is undoubtedly high, and with the band doing the hard yards on the road (supporting everyone from LostProphets to Owl City, and from The Wonder Years to 3OH!3 within a 6 month span this year), their work ethic pleasingly suggests that their potential could well be fulfilled.
Recommended Tracks: Wasting Away, Rooftop To The Street, In My Eyes & To Die For.
Dev, don't you know about Sputnik's problem with the & symbol. All fixed now anyway.
LOL at the Bintang singlet comment. I swear, that drummer looks about 12 years old in real life.
Emim, if I have heard of The Letter Black, I have yet to actually listen to them. I think they're on a list to listen to of mine, but unsure how they got there. Probably you.
ttb, I was gonna pass on this band's details a few days back, but you've been a little quiet of late... Either that, or I have not crossed Chuckie's path. I will be interested to know what you think of this due to your Paramore obsession.
And what do you think of her voice DavID? You heard this EP yet? It would be unlike me to get to a local act before you.
Yeah, the couple of singles they have released. I momentarily thought about reviewing their album, but I wasn't sure if they had a little too many Short Stack tendencies which means a review would be much more entertaining coming from you.