Review Summary: An excellent follow up full of infectious and unconventional pop rock.
Sophomore albums are always the hardest records to make, with many, many artists failing to live up to their debuts. The lead up to the recording of Trial Kennedy’s sophomore release ‘Living Undesigned’
almost killed the band. In the three years since their debut, Trial Kennedy has lost their record label and a bassist, dealt with heart surgery on their lead singer and nearly broken up on countless occasions, culminating in the band disappearing off the face of the earth. Upon their re-emergence, what has resulted is the very honest, emotional rock album that is ‘Living Undesigned.
’ Gone is the upbeat pop from ‘New Manic Art,’ replaced by Trial Kennedy at their darkest and most sincere. Despite the dramatic change in tone, ‘Living Undesigned’ is still inherently catchy, one just has to dig a little deeper to find the hooks.
Opening jaunt ‘Sally’ sees Trial Kennedy doing what they do best – writing crisp and unconventional rock songs with hooks galore, however the darker tone is noticeable from the outset. Despite this, Trial Kennedy remain as catchy as ever, drawing from bands such as Birds of Tokyo and Anberlin before putting their own zest into the mix. First single ‘Best of Tomorrow’ is a perfect example of this, while lacking the immediacy of the band’s earlier hits (see ‘Knife Light’ or ‘Colour Day Tours’) it is no less catchy. The band really hits their stride on ‘Breath a Dime,’ one of the more upbeat numbers full of delay soaked guitar licks and an equally impressive chorus.
Tim Morrison’s unique vocal chords are again the band’s strong point, providing plenty of impressive lines throughout. Tracks like ‘Arrest Room’ and ‘Breath a Dime’ are perfect examples of this, where Morrison shows off his impressive vocal range. Similarly, guitarist Stacy Gray has plenty of standout moments. ‘Strange Behaviour’s rolling guitar riff is bound to be hummed for days, while his work in ‘Exology’ is nothing short of outstanding, despite neither being overly complex. The rhythm section of new bassist Richard Buxton and drummer Shaun Gionis is consistently solid throughout, with their energetic, albeit subtle approach never letting up.
Such is the infectiousness of Trial Kennedy. While there is nothing complex about the quartet’s music, their music is, at heart, bloody catchy. It’s not hard at all to nod one’s head along to the chorus of songs such as ‘Cold War’ or ‘Sally’ amongst others. ‘Cold War’ sees the band at what is their most upbeat on Living Undesigned
, featuring what is probably the best chorus on the album. While opener ‘Sally’ typifies the band’s updated guise, producing a more mature and well thought out sound whilst retaining the band’s earlier penchant for obscenely catchy choruses. Meanwhile, ‘Arrest Room’ could quite easily be one of the songs of 2011. Its sombre build up of strings and keys providing the perfect backdrop for Morrison’s impressive vocals before letting loose in the chorus with a torrent of emotion.
While there isn’t the same plethora of pop hooks to be found when compared to Trial Kennedy’s debut, ‘Living Undesigned’
is still chock full of the infectious rock the band is loved for, albeit with a darker edge. Given their recent history, simply releasing their second album is a triumph for the quartet. Their sophomore album is the band’s most mature work to date, across all areas. When taking into account the quality of the music to be found, Trial Kennedy are well on the way to returning to their previous heights. ‘Living Undesigned’
is a brilliant step forward from a band deserving of so much more.