A collaboration suite with an overarching singular theme is a respectable concept, and it is what Daniel Victor has done with Neverending White Lights for three records now. He said he wants to make actual albums, that being a group of songs in accord and inseparable, while having new voices over one musical identity to showcase a unique choir of sorts. In his interviews he makes it apparent he’s no idiot and wants to be forward-thinking, but the reason I’m bringing up all these things people already know is because it’s an anomaly that his Act III doesn’t live up to the work he put into it, the concept he envisioned, or something that sounds like Daniel Victor wrote it.
It is this lack of identity that is the most upsetting; the fact that Daniel Victor could perform, record, and produce all parts of these songs like he did on his first two albums but all Act III is, honestly, is a mere alternative rock album, very much of its time. The spacious qualities that have been creeping into the genre for some years now are all over the place here, as many will have noticed from the anthemic single “Falling Apart”, and frankly this atmosphere and attentiveness to texture is the only thing making the album listenable. With Act I, it was truly a hit and miss, but when Daniel hit, he soared. With Act II, almost every song was incredible, a perfect example of growth, so what happened here?
The beginning of the album serves the listener the first problem. If Daniel wants to create a true album, why does the first song, “Theme from Love Will Ruin”, not have anything to do with or let alone flow into “Falling Apart”? The same mistake was made on the last album, but the difference overall is that here none of the songs flow together in any sort of aural story; there’s nothing connecting any of the songs to each other, despite Daniel singing on most of the album this time around. It’s somehow unvaried yet disjointed.
Looking at songs like “Starlight” or “Say Hi For Me”, both of which are commoner’s songs, and another pair, say, “The Game Needed Me” and “Goodbye”, both of which have a vague correspondence to the first two albums, the two pairs on the same album show a lack of attention to direction. The mediocre chords and melody of “Starlight” in tandem with an extremely predictable build of “Say Hi For Me” - actually most of the chord progressions on the album are dismally predictable - they may distract and amuse the typical listener, but fans of Neverending White Lights’ affinity for passionate ethereality will find so, so little of that here, because a lot of the songs have the same problems.
“Ghost Ship” sank the second Daniel allowed Hot Hot Heat to sing on it, “The Greatest One” harkens a bit to the first album aside from the autotune-pitch shift vocals (an experiment that does nothing for the song), the lack of dynamics in volume that could easily have helped songs like the electronic “The Game Needed Me” or the barely classical “The Waltz” lead to the downfall of the better songs, so it’s basically, overall, a bizarre combination of experimentation with conformity; as we can see those don’t work together.
It is with grave disappointment I write this, for I have the utmost respect for Daniel and his efforts, but Act III is a mess under the surface, with no apparent love for the songs themselves, which is ridiculous because I know that’s not true. Love Will Ruin is now an ironic title that exhibits how the overall lack of connection and attention (despite all efforts) lead to this: a radio penchant that shares too little with Daniel’s quality of work but too much with cliche artists of today to merit interest. Part II has a lot of explaining to do.