Review Summary: On “the verge” of something that is still to be determined.
As a fastidious note-jotter during initial listening sessions of an album, yours truly will often have enough words scrawled on a piece of paper to write three times the length of that of a normal review. Whether the remarks are general, specific, positive or negative, ideas usually flow to the point that even something relevant will often have to miss out - for readability purposes - come the final product. So when a cursory glance reveals an abundance of empty white space on the notes to There For Tomorrow’s third LP ‘The Verge’, the first word that comes to mind is “indifference”. And yet, ‘The Verge’ is by no means a bad album and continues to see the quartet from Orlando take promising baby steps of progression in the quest to realize their potential.
One thing for certain concerning ‘The Verge’ is that There For Tomorrow have shed the musical styles of their infancy. The grungy guitar-driven sound of their debut LP is well and truly in their past, while the pop-punk leanings of their well-received early EPs only fleetingly appear (most notably on the album’s hookiest cut ‘18’). Continuing on from the divisive ‘A Little Faster’, the band maintain their penchant for a radio-friendly middle ground between alt-rock and pop-rock. However, this time, the path taken in achieving such a sound differs due to the surprisingly sparse production of Michael “Elvis” Baskette (Alter Bridge, Chevelle, Story of the Year). Purists will be glad that ‘The Verge’ is far from a generic exercise in distorted feedback, since the instrumentation is well-defined throughout. This allows Christian Climer’s soaring guitars and Chris Kamrada’s booming drums a sense of real space, while the greatest beneficiary is Jay Enriquez’s prominent bass-lines which give tracks like lead single ‘Hunt Hunt Hunt’ and ‘Saave’ an almost funky feel.
While the change in approach appears to have suited the quartet’s musicians, it has subsequently placed more emphasis on the band’s song-writing and vocals. Here is where ‘The Verge’ will also prove divisive, with those aforementioned baby steps of progression unlikely to appease the impatient. With clichés becoming scarcer, there is clearly lyrical growth evident, yet one could hardly call them ground-breaking or especially relatable. Meanwhile, Maika Maile continues to gain confidence with each passing release, being more assured in all vocal ranges, especially when reaching for a high note. Unfortunately, the concern remains that the lack of grunt in his voice continues to let down those tracks which require a rougher edge. One tune which definitely does not require such a trait is the oddly-paced piano ballad ‘Blu’, a potential career-changer for Maile that highlights his tender side. It is a shame then that the song descends into cheesy AOR during passages, especially when it comes to the dated guitar-work.
In a sense, ‘BLU’ sums up the conflicting nature of ‘The Verge’, since the album’s mature ambition is both admirable and interesting. “I’m done with the same old same old” Maile sings on ‘Saave’, while on ‘18’ he claims “I don’t wanna get by this time”. The theme of progression is omnipresent on this relatively consistent LP, but unfortunately too many tracks elicit too little a response, tipping ‘The Verge’ into inoffensive territory. Likely to be the album’s barometer, early trio ‘Nowhere Blvd’, Saave’ and ‘The Joyride’ approach feeling bland and formulaic, with questionable lasting value. Alternately, it is the alt-rock edge of latter half cuts ‘Circle of Lies’, ‘Get It’ and ‘Stopwatch Affair’ that should be further explored in the future. Not to be judged immediately due to the group’s change in sound, ‘The Verge’ is an apt album title, since this quartet are indeed on “the verge” of something. What that is - and how effective it turns out - is still to be determined, but if the band name is indicative, then There For Tomorrow appear hell-bent on eventually realizing their potential.
Recommended Tracks: 18, Circle of Lies & Hunt Hunt Hunt.