Review Summary: Like floating weightlessly in the airy, sunny summer breeze; with your head stuck in a mother fucking jet nozzle.
As with any genre of music, rock and it’s many stemming sub-genres have been thrown about from fad to fad as the years have gone by. There was the hard rock craze that tore through the scene fueled by bands like Led Zeppelin and Van Halen, combining heavy guitarwork with melodic vocals; there was the grunge movement as inspired by Nirvana and Alice in Chains, it's signature muddy production and imperfect vocals; there was the catchy pop rock fronted by the Beatles and, of course, the space rock/prog phase rocketed towards us by the legendary Pink Floyd. A great deal of modern rock acts could be neatly pocketed as the result of any one of these fads; Porcupine Tree quite clearly children of Pink Floyd, the Foo Fighters a product of alt rock and grunge. Amplifier’s debut, however, is much more difficult to set about describing.
Although in some ways it combines the best elements of many different genres of rock; the gritty, crunching riffs of hard rock and the dominating atmospheres of prog rock, for example, the release doesn’t feel as thrown-together as this sounds. It doesn’t feel like some collage of musical genres stuck and spliced together for effect. It’s not like one minute you’re being bludgeoned by deafening riffs and then suddenly you’re just floating through spacey slide guitar the next; it’s all one big, cohesive experience. It’s just Amplifier. Loud and quiet, dark and uplifting, heavy and summery; something that must be heard to be appreciated.
One of the album’s greatest strengths is its ability to keep a unique and interesting atmosphere throughout what are essentially (although very long sometimes) just damned good rock songs. 'Motorhead' kicks things off with roaring guitar and melodic vocals, displaying Sel Balamir’s knack for catchy, memorable lyricism right from the get-go (Yeah but I've lived in the slip of your frown/And this place has been getting me down...Happy birthday, anyway!). 'Airborne' introduces the floaty, airy and gloriously uplifting atmosphere that envelops the entire album before slowly building into a huge instrumental climax, and from here on out it's smooth sailing. ‘Neon’ provides the next highlight; it’s the shortest and most instantaneous song on the album, empowering, epic, and just too catchy to resist. ‘On/Off’ slows things down and introduces some of the most effective lyricism of the album (You’re where the rain doesn't pour...It just floats down...) before the album comes to a stunning close with the one/two punch of 'One Great Summer' and ‘UFO’s’ uplifting, sunny melodies.
I could tell you this album was as much Van Halen as it was Pink Floyd or some other comparison along those lines but I really wouldn’t be doing it any justice; Amplifier is Amplifier, and too unique to be anything else; as atmospheric as anything but at the same time fun, instant, uplifting and catchy. It’s not without its flaws – some tracks certainly do drag on a little too long and there are times when the vocal melodies and riffs start to sound a little too similar for comfort – but Amplifier is a thoroughly enjoyable record and, to this day, the greatest thing this band has ever achieved.
One Great Summer, Neon, On/Off, Motorhead, UFO’s