Review Summary: Coming out guns & strings a blazing, just how far can this cab ride go?
Of the multitude of bands plying their trade in the safe, inoffensive and often derided genre of pop-rock (or power-pop if you are so inclined), only a handful truly make a successful profession out of it. In most cases, it will eventuate from an outfit who trip over an insanely catchy tune and are able to elongate their career as a one-hit wonder. However, there are the rare exceptions, with the likes of Coldplay, Maroon 5 and even The Script and OneRepublic being able to consistently churn out inventively catchy tracks that attract more than just the casual radio listener. What these bands have in common is a penchant to think big in order to distinguish themselves from the pack... On their second LP 'Symphony Soldier', Las Vegas outfit The Cab attempt to do the same and elevate themselves into the higher bracket of pop-rock acts.
While the then quintet had previously shown some potential - whether it be their pop-punk leaning debut EP or the difficult to dislodge LP 'Whisper War' - nothing firmly suggested a steep ascension for The Cab. Furthermore, their most recent release, 'The Lady Luck EP', indicated a step in the wrong direction in order to win over the masses. Thankfully, it seems that was nothing but an experiment with 'Symphony Soldier' coming out all guns and strings a blazing (see the striking album cover). Holding absolutely nothing back, opener 'Angel With a Shotgun' immediately throws enchanting strings, haunting synth and even a choir into the mix, while the following 'Temporary Bliss' adds an infectious chorus that makes it a puzzling non-choice as the album's lead single. That honor went to third track 'Bad', a Bruno Mars sound-alike party song that moves from piano ballad to group sing-along in a rather nifty, if gimmicky, manner.
Despite losing some band members along the way, The Cab have retained their greatest asset; accomplished lead vocalist Alex DeLeon. While he may not have the strongest voice, it is silky smooth and has a nice range that avoids the whiney nature which characterizes many similar acts. Even when 'Symphony Soldier' gets a little trite in its mid-section, DeLeon's vocals hold up the likes of the playfully catchy 'Animal' and the Maroon 5'ish 'La La'. Unfortunately, some shonky lyrics do not help, with 'La La' giving us "You know that you could be my favorite one-night stand", while 'Her Love Is My Religion' proclaims "I see the stars in the freckles on her face"! The theme of love is far too narrow here and continues the band's lyrical trend downwards since their deceptively mature 'Glitz and Glamour' EP. Thankfully, the adjustment of the lyrical perspective on rocker 'Another Me', sincere break-up ballad 'Lovesick Fool' and uplifting closer 'Living Louder' does mean that the latter half of 'Symphony Soldier' continues to retain interest.
What makes this newfound ambition all the more surprising from The Cab, is the recent upheaval the now trio have endured. Not only have multiple band members departed, but 'Symphony Soldier' was released independently after the group broke ties with scene label Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen. Both of these changes could well be put down to the band's more poppier sound evident here, with a clear determination to cross over and achieve some mainstream success. To that extent, the polished, crystal-clear production of John Feldmann (Panic! At The Disco, The Used) is effective, as are the mild contemporary R'n'B influences which are all the rage nowadays. At 46 minutes, the album is undoubtedly overlong and repetitive, yet there is no real filler, just some redundancy in its mid-section. It is the kind of misstep that is predominantly forgivable when such a young band are looking to extend themselves, as The Cab are on 'Symphony Soldier'. And with the results apparent here, who knows just how long and far this cab ride will go?
Recommended Tracks: Temporary Bliss, Angel With a Shotgun, Another Me & Living Louder.