Review Summary: without a guitar, Crash Kings sink into the dark oblivion called "meh".
Crash Kings is a strange, but all too familiar band that walks the line between classic rock bands and contemporary piano pop bands. The blistering first single, ‘Mountain Man’, is a loud pop rock song that relies heavily on the keyboard to build an atmosphere. The song involves the lead singer/pianist (Tony Beliveau) using a whammy bar from his keyboard to make up for the lack of guitar; in the process, it sounds as if the band actually has a guitar – very interesting. This sound is used to create fake feedback and is especially useful in the build-up to the final chorus. ‘Mountain Man’ is an excellent song, but unfortunately, there are no songs that match the creative ambition of this track.
As proven in the opening song, Crash Kings are best when loud. No one wants another piano pop band devoid of personality, but that is the exact problem the band encounters when they play quiet songs. A handful of duds plague the album because of this problem: ‘Come Away’, ‘Non Believer’, ‘Saving Grace’ and ‘My Love’. These type of tracks portray Crash Kings as too well-behaved to stand out. Even ‘It’s Only Wednesday’ is still nothing more than a typical piano-pop song, although the piano is absolutely hammered.
Crash Kings are a quite dramatic group, and because of this, speedy songs are exactly what the doctor ordered. ‘1985’ and ‘14 Arms’ are the type of songs that hold weight for Crash Kings. From The Killers-esque chorus in ‘1985’ to the fake guitar in ‘14 Arms’, it is proven that the band can be catchy, mainstream, and still abrasive. The song ‘Raincoat’ is worth a special mention. It is particularly enjoyable with gleaming piano notes and beautiful dynamics. When the band hits the nail right, the songs can be stunning.
Crash Kings’ debut album is too hit-or-miss to have any lasting impact. The fact that the band has no guitarist may seem interesting at first, but in the long run hinders the band. Crash Kings are a much weaker band than they should be, and not even Tony’s strong performance (vocally and on piano) can save this album from being mediocre to the last drop. That is not to say that the album is bad, for it is good. However, it is not great enough to warrant more than the occasional listen.
- Mountain Man
- 14 Arms