Review Summary: "Because every lonely heart can use an honest song they can sing along to"
While many musicians require experimentation to keep them challenged and motivated, it is often over-emphasized to many bands detriment in the early stages of their career. The potential of recording the same album twice should only concern outfits who are lazy and/or looking to pander to the mainstream populous. In reality, natural growth and sensible refinement is often more than adequate in progressing from album to album, and that is exactly the method taken by Maryland quartet The Dangerous Summer on their second LP 'War Paint'.
In terms of refinement; it is most evident here in the form of the musicianship, especially the use of the dual guitar attack. Whereas the work of Cody Payne and Bryan Czap disappointingly took a back seat on predecessor 'Reach For The Sun', the lead guitar is especially prevalent on 'War Paint'. Beginning with a burst of energy, the opening title track is a good indicator of this, while the use of effects pedals to emphasize delay and reverb becomes more pronounced as the album progresses - reminding one of The Graduate's superb 2010 LP 'Only Every Time'. To this extent, an argument could be made that Paul Leavitt's production leans a little on the slick side, and could do with some extra diversity. 'War Paint' is undoubtedly a consistent album, but it may be too consistent, lacking a hook-filled true standout and excluding a genuine ballad for what would have been some welcome variety.
These perceived deficiencies put pressure on the aforementioned natural growth of The Dangerous Summer... Thankfully, they pass this test with flying colors, especially in relation to the extremely mature song-writing on offer. 'War Paint' may not be an album of 2011 contender, yet it challenges to be the most lyrically impressive, with numerous passages likely to strike a chord with listeners. If 'Reach For The Sun' posed questions which were open to interpretation, then 'War Paint' assuredly provides the answers. Moreover, there appears to be a realistic storyline arc in existence, further lending weight to the tales which are told. Captivating highlight 'Miscommunication' sounds like a free-flowing fly on the wall recording of a conversation, while the theme of self-discovery appears on the striking 'Parachute', the catchy 'Good Things', the emotional 'I Should Leave Right Now' and closer 'Waves'. It may best be communicated however on the title track, which offers:
"I was starting to shake from the days I’ve been up,
There’s a lot on my plate and the ones I loved stopped answering.
They left me to find myself in my own hate,
I work all alone with a cynical taste and the day I get out is the day I’ll be made".
"There wasn’t a trace of the war letting up and the days went on late.
I struggled and I fell to solid ground, it led me to my escape".
Of course, even the strongest of words can be wasted if they are not delivered with sincerity, heart and conviction - traits which front-man Andrew (AJ) Perdomo has in spades. With his distinctive, occasionally over-enunciating articulation reminding of Go Radio's Jason Lancaster, Perdomo is continuously honest and relatable, making a consistent connection with the undeniably personal subject matter. On rare occasions, his tone can feel a little over-bearing and could do with the use of an almost gimmicky gang or backing vocal, but as 'Work In Progress' proves, Perdomo is able to alter his range when the situation requires it. So while 'War Paint' is far from a perfect release, it's imperfections are - in a sense - exciting, since The Dangerous Summer have already proven that they do not require substantial experimentation in order to progress. Some sensible refinement here, and a little natural growth there, and album number three could very well be the classic the band seem capable of.
"You’ll find the courage to paint a world that burns like hell. Not for allure, but mostly for yourself. Because you needed escape in a dark kind of way. It’s a sentiment you’ll never get used to". ('Waves')
Recommended Tracks: Miscommunication, Work In Progress, Waves & War Paint.