Review Summary: Patience is a virtue that if used wisely will lead to Lucky Street.
Including multiple vocalists in a band can be a value-adding experience... However, it can often be a stressful one also. Taking Back Sunday and Underoath are examples of such outfits that have seen singers leave their ranks, and pop-punkers Mayday Parade joined the list in 2007 with the departure of Jason Lancaster. Quickly forming a new group, one would not have blamed Lancaster for capitalizing on his controversial exit by rushing a release. As others have found out though, what works well in tandem, does not instantly lead to success alone. Wisely, Lancaster & Co. were patient, not releasing a debut EP until late 2008. It saw Go Radio finding their footing, but ultimately attempting to prove too much to be entirely satisfying. The band realized this and were again patient, not releasing another EP until 20 months later. In an almost back-to-basics fashion, 'Do Overs and Second Chances' successfully refined the band's sound, positioning the group well in the lead-up to their debut LP.
It is that same fundamental approach which kick-starts the much-anticipated 'Lucky Street', with the soaring guitars and catchy chorus of the effective title track displaying all the hallmarks of whatever genre you want to call this (since it's part pop-punk, part alt-rock & part pop-rock). As fans of Mayday Parade's fantastic 'A Lesson In Romantics' would know however, the co-stars of whatever Lancaster is involved in are his distinctively passionate vocals & sincerely clever lyrics. Almost gruff sounding and often mistaken for a British accent (think a rawer Rob Thomas), his unique voice is undoubtedly an acquired taste and can come off as pretentious. However, his delivery is usually sincere, convincing and backed by stellar songwriting. Lancaster thoroughly tests his vocal range throughout this album, performing up-tempo rockers, emotional ballads and even approaches falsetto on the bombastic almost Muse-sounding 'Strength To Stay'.
Fans of Lancaster's quick-witted heartfelt lyrics may initially feel let down, but the gold nuggets do exist and just take a little longer to process during Lucky Street's overlong 53 minute duration. Often at his best when scathingly directing his passion towards a target, lead single 'Any Other Heart' sees Lancaster take aim at his stepmother ("It's as if this form of treason crawled up deep inside your head and left you notes on how to keep your insides dead"), while the protagonist of 'Swear It Like You Mean It' is a former girlfriend ("you keep the ring, turns out it never made your fingers warm"). Elsewhere, relating with an audience is clearly given priority via motivational narratives of endurance, such as on bass-driven rocker 'Kill The Beast', touching acoustic ballad 'House of Hallways', and the tempo-switching strings-infused piece 'Hold On'.
As with Mayday Parade's fan favorite 'Miserable At Best', the schmaltziness of the lyrics will be divisive, but the sincerity & passion with which Lancaster articulates his stories are effective. 'Why I'm Home' is one such example, as is 'The Truth Is' with lines such as "If I had to walk the Earth a thousand times, I'd do it 'cause I love you". If it all sounds like a fake cliche, then look no further than the simply phenomenal and heart-wrenching 'Forever My Father', which appears twice on this LP. Dedicated to Lancaster's late father, the original version (which appeared on the band's debut EP) is made all the better by the vocal accompaniment provided by Jason's siblings Erin & Daniel. Meanwhile, the re-recorded electric version of this emotional tear-jerker turns the song into a power ballad with genuine crossover appeal. When casting a critical eye over 'Lucky Street', one of its biggest drawbacks is that 'Forever My Father' was not bettered. Those who expected it to be however, were expecting too much!
As it will undoubtedly be compared to the catchier 'A Lesson In Romantics', 'Lucky Street' is an album that could understandably have a few listeners underwhelmed as they try to take everything in on first listen. To that extent, it is a real grower as subsequent listens are required to break down its individual components. It is only then when it all comes together... The vocals, the lyrics and even the hitherto barely mentioned music, which is consistently tight without taking center stage. The rhythm section is reliable, guitar solos occasionally make an appearance, a strings quartet is used on a few tracks, piano is prominent on the ballads, while 'Fight, Fight (Reach for the Sky)' even uses horns to add a latin feel. It all adds up to a consistent release with sufficient variety that lays the foundation for what will hopefully be a long & storied career. And to think that it may not have happened without a little patience.
Recommended Tracks: Forever My Father, Any Other Heart, Fight Fight (Reach for the Sky) & Strength To Stay.