Review Summary: An impressive debut from a band full of promise.
It’s hard to find what feels like a genuine rock band anymore. When bands like Nickelback, 3 Doors Down, Godsmack (I could probably go on and on) dominate and plague (depending on your taste, obviously people like them or they wouldn’t still be around) the airwaves, sometimes you have to dig deep to find something worthwhile. I believe The Classic Crime’s debut Albatross
is just that: A genuine rock album released by a genuine rock band.
You can basically boil Albatross
down to two main types of songs: The pop/rock sounds of songs like “All the Memories” and “The Coldest Heart,” and the edgier, more rock driven tracks, such as “The Fight” and “We All Look Elsewhere.” There’s nothing too crazy going on instrumentally, but who says all bands need to be full of technical powerhouses on their respective instruments? There are plenty of catchy guitar hooks (with special mention on “Flight of Kings and “We All Look Elsewhere”), impressive vocal lines and fairly intricate drum patterns going on, but the bass can be difficult to pick out since it typically doesn’t veer away from the rhythm guitar. Speaking on the positive side, I do particularly enjoy Matt MacDonald’s lyrics. The more pop/rock songs have a very sincere, uplifting charm to them without being corny while the more rock based tracks are darker tinged, yet they never come off as angsty or whiny. He is probably my highlight of the band, vocally and lyrically. Whether he needs to sing softly (“Headlights,” the only real slow song on the album) or even yell/scream a little to put some more intensity into a track (“The Fight”); he can pull it off with his versatile voice.
The Classic Crime do a great job of hitting the pop/rock aspect of their sound except for “Who Needs Air.” It’s one of the lighter songs of the album combining nice, clean and simple verses with a more upbeat, distorted chorus. Unfortunately, the chorus lacks any real punch until after the bridge where some backing vocals are added in and the rest of the band becomes a little more active. If only it had taken some cues from “Say the Word,” a song of similar qualities with more successful results, or taken a similar route to “Headlights” and kept everything clean and not try to shoehorn a more upbeat chorus in. Either way, the song could have turned out better. On a side note, it has always kind of irritating to me when a band has only one slow song and throws it in at the end of the album. It’s almost like they do it because they think they have to. “Headlights” is a fantastic piece of music with some beautiful melodies, and the album could have used another slow, dulcet-like song to break up the stream of upbeat rock songs to give it a little more variety. As I’ve said, Matt has a great voice that especially shines on “Headlights” as he lets it soar between his lower and higher registers, which include some very nicely done falsettos and vibrato. I could have used another song like that displaying more of his vocal abilities. It’s a treat to have a vocalist this talented in a rock band along with fellow Tooth & Nail label mates (at the time of release anyway) Anberlin. There are few other modern rock vocalists in my mind that can be compared with the amazingly pure and clean singing voice of Stephen Christian, but I think Matt MacDonald could be well on his way.
“The Coldest Heart” and “I Know the Feeling” are probably the catchiest of the catchy songs, which hit in on all the right notes. “The Bitter Uprising” could get an honorable mention with its ridiculously addictive pre-chorus and chorus but is held back by the dull, lifeless verses. “Flight of Kings” is an excellent cross between the pop and rock songs with darker verses; bouncy, yet still tense choruses; and a softer, mellowed out bridge.
The edgier rock tracks are also well done but could use a little work in a couple of areas. “The Fight” is an aggressively upbeat, fantastic opener, while “We All Look Elsewhere” is definitely the heavier song on the album. They both make use of hard hitting power chords and some heavily palm muted sections. "The Fight" has MacDonald sporting some of his harshest vocals along with a simple, yet effective guitar solo in the bridge, while "We All Look Elsewhere" makes use of some lower, harmonized guitar parts in the verses along with some very nice lead sections. Both songs (as well as "Headlights") are very unique in nature compared to the rest of the album and stand out above the the pack. “Warrior Poet” gets it job done but is slightly overshadowed by the excellent aforementioned tracks, while on the other hand, “Blisters and Coffee” is a slightly mixed bag. While the intro and chorus of “Blisters” are nothing special, the free flowing verses and short lived bridge are excellent and somewhat make up for the other lackluster sections.
The band really excels at writing light verses that lead into big, sing-a-long choruses; it's just that it happens a little too often and becomes formulaic in a few spots. Minor quips aside, The Classic Crime have written and recorded an impressive debut and are another worthy addition to Tooth & Nail’s roster.