Review Summary: They manage to shine in moments, but still end up sounding like a hybrid of The Fray and Nickelback...
Australia is not a familiar name thrown around when trying to think of some modern rock bands’ origins; the majority coming from the USA and Canada. The few that come to mind are Sick Puppies and Small Mercies, who don’t even compare with the genres leaders. For obvious reasons I am excluding bands such as Dead Letter Circus and The Butterfly Effect; they stray into heavier genres and produce far better music. Earlier this year a Sydney rock band named Syndicate made a meagre attempt to push to the forefront of Australian modern rock and released their debut self titled album through Sony Music.
From the beginning of the albums opener track ‘Pushing Me Away’ one thing is apparent; this album is slick and over produced. ‘Pushing Me Away’ begins quick and upbeat with all instruments roaring, before slowing down for a bleak chorus. The instrumentation may be nothing special and lyrics bland, but the bass adds a nice punch that unfortunately the guitars fail to deliver on. In short, it’s not a good opener. The second cut from the album ‘My Mom Hates Me’ took me by surprise. It’s extremely poppy and could easily be covered by the likes of All Time Low or even Bowling for Soup. The lyrics here aren’t to be taken too seriously and combined with a steady drum beat, create an overall fun vibe. This song is extremely catchy and craves a live audience so it can be chanted by adoring fans. The only gripe I have with this song is the fact the way they spelt ‘Mom’ is just downright un-Australian.
The third song ‘Shout’ is really the beginning of the end for this debut release. ‘Shout’ in itself is quick, catchy and utterly painless. It’s not a bad song; it’s just every song after it follows the same slowed-down momentum. ‘Shout’ tries to deliver a positive message through acoustic guitars and a soaring vocal display in the chorus, which is catchy enough to make it appealing for radio stations, hence why it was the lead single. However it still feels like something is missing. These first three tracks all offer something different musically, which really can’t be said for the rest of the album. Musically rich moments such as the catchy guitar riff and chorus boosting bass in ‘My Confession’ and the catchy repetition of “no baby, no baby, no baby” in ‘Tightrope’ manage to tick some boxes. However what is left of the album is plagued with soft rock ballads and plodding attempts at songs that all miss the mark. ‘Bring It On’ and ‘Falling Apart’ try to add some unfound heavier grunge face paint to a band that needs its own identity, yet they still manage to sound bland. The albums closer ‘All My Life (Reprise)’ is a piano version of an earlier song. Here the band really shines, with the piano and strings arrangement trumping the boring instruments from the earlier version.
Unfortunately for Syndicate their debut album is mostly a forgettable affair; coming from someone who adores most of the modern rock genre. The whole album is overproduced, unoriginal and feels utterly soulless. I get the feeling Syndicate would benefit from being independent and not having major label breathing down their neck. They manage to shine in moments, but still end up sounding like a hybrid of The Fray and Nickelback. ‘Syndicate’ is about ten tracks to long, doesn’t offer any non-generic track names and quite possibly could be their only ever album. In the end Syndicates debut album is as motionless as the stationary taxi on the album cover that they obviously had to blur to make it seem like it was heading somewhere.