Oh, the horrors of producing a follow-up album. Questions like, “How close should we stay to our first album’s sound?" and “Do we aim for critical acclaim or fanfare?" The answers vary depending on what the band is looking to receive in the long run. Bands who want to garner some of that mainstream money flow will pull anything out of their generic arsenal that they can get their greedy little hands on. Bands with a hit debut will take that blueprint, run it through a copier, and shove it into a CD case for their sophomore “effort."
It should be no surprise to anyone who heard the song “Wasting My Time" devour mainstream radio in 2001/2002 that the band who created it, Default, would want to capitalize on their previous success. It’s unfortunate for fans, though, that Default leapt into both of the categories listed above. Never has it been so easy to pinpoint a band that has lost focus on making good music and gained interest, literally, in their bank accounts. It’s also unfortunate that Default seems to possess enough talent to make a solid rock record, but decides to throw it away in an effort to attract the pop music crowd.
I was excited to hear Elocation for one main reason: I had heard the lead single and immediately recognized it as coming from my favorite Canadian rockers, so the anticipation set in. I should let you all know that a couple of years ago, I was the type of person who would buy a CD just because it sounded familiar. Thankfully, I’ve grown out of that. However, Default has not.
At least not with this album. Well, maybe I should take that back. They have grown. They’ve just grown soft. All the songs off of Elocation sound too light. The opening track, “Who Followed Who?" starts off with enough of an edge, but it dulls toward the end of the song; like a sharp knife being scraped along concrete for about three minutes. It leaves it sounding like a much lighter version of Velvet Revolver’s “Slither."
It’s obvious that the band’s edge is still scattered along the pavement, because they sway right into the uber-ballad, “Taking My Life Away," the lead single I referred to earlier. Non-offensive is the key word for this, and for the rest of Default’s softer songs. After all, why risk losing the 55 and over crowd? They buy these newfangled things called compact disks too. I admit that I still like this song, even though it’s impossible to ignore the similarities to “Wasting My Time." The structure for both is as follows: soft verse, somewhat gruff chorus, slightly different verse, long chorus, decent but not overwhelming solo, and then the chorus again. One could argue that that’s the formula used in almost all rock/pop songs on the radio, and I would have to agree. But maybe I was hoping for something a little different from these guys. Is that so wrong?
Hey, look, it’s “Deny (Part II)," otherwise known as “Movin’ On." Again, I wish that they had at least attempted to stray from the blueprints that they laid out on their first album. I can tolerate generic, but I can’t tolerate duplicates. So we’ll “move on" from that stinker to something that actually sounds different. The most notable difference in “Throw It All Away" is the way Danny Crag uses his drums to create almost a tribal atmosphere at the beginning. Eventually though, the song turns towards the familiar. Also, lead singer Dallas Smith’s voice sounds strained during the chorus. That’s understandable considering that he’s never had any formal vocal training. Notice I said “understandable" not forgivable. He could probably use some training to expand his range and break free of the vocal monotony that he delves into at almost every turn.
“Cruel" desperately tries to move back into hard rock territory, but comes up with only shavings of granite. The main guitar riff is interesting and works in the vein of a more classic rock sound for the chorus, but it actually makes the verses seem awkward. The lyrics are throwaway material at best. Something about moving on from his girlfriend. Wait…didn’t we already have that song? And wasn’t it CALLED “Movin’ On"?
As much as I rag on Default for going soft, I, for reasons unknown, rather enjoy “Made to Lie," an ode to one-night stands. After that description, it isn’t unreasonable for comparisons to be made to Eve 6’s mega hit “Here’s to the Night." However, note this one big difference: “Made to Lie" won’t be getting played on the radio every 7 seconds. But to be fair, it doesn’t deserve to be. Dallas’ voice actually sounds at a comfortable level for once on this album. And then the next track comes on…
“Crossing the Line" crosses my threshold for generic rock. The guitar riff that is featured during the verse is painfully common and Dallas strains to get his semi-grunge voice at the right pitch. Not to mention the band’s sad attempt to fuel this disk with a little bit of testosterone, which falls flat on its face and actually punctures one of its testicles. That could explain the horrendous vocal stylings put forth on “Without You." On top of that, there isn’t any clear melody throughout most of the song. Apparently, all of the instruments got the volume turned down so that Dallas could have adequate space to make our ears numb.
That problem is remedied thanks to the highlight of this CD, “Break Down Doors." Finally, Default let’s us peak in at the ability that they have to actually make a good hard rock song. It’s an intense, driving song with possibly the simplest, but catchiest chorus they’ve ever written. It also contains one of their best lyrics: “I break down your door/Just to hold who I’m bleeding for." Although, if you didn’t have a lyric sheet in front of you, you’d never know what he was singing, because it sounds something like “Just to wo-howah be there for."
As great as that raucous, passionate moment was, I can’t help but feel like there’s something missing when I get done listening to it. Oh, I know what it is…ANOTHER BALLAD. I’m not sure when Dallas Smith transformed into Michael Bolton, but I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and stop it from happening. “All She Wrote" combines all of the previous softness and goes over the top with a grandiose chorus and some of the most unforgivably cheesy lines ever uttered. “Today was that day/It was that time/And that was all that she wrote for me." I shudder to think of anything more cliché than that.
As plain as the rest of the album is, they manage to end on a high note. Two high notes actually. The first is the superhero-movie-soundtrack-bound “Alone." I can actually say that I like what Jeremy Hora and Dave Bennedict pulled together, on the guitar and bass respectively. The mood changed from a dull, uninspired romance novel of an album to something with a little bit of heart. The last song is an acoustic version of “Let You Down," (from the Fallout) which, although the vocals don’t sound nearly as good as on the original, it stills makes for a much better end than most of the other songs could have given.
I must say that, overall, that these guys did let me down. Despite a couple of great tracks, this was a less-than-mediocre effort. I suggest saving your hard earned money to spend on something else. Pick up a copy of the band’s debut album, The Fallout, if you want to see what these guys can really do.