Review Summary: Numb.
One of the most interesting talking points about Balance and Composure’s latest album is that it brings the listener to a memorable point of their lives. Maybe I’m an anomaly for having a homogeneous blur of a childhood-- most of my peers probably have fond musical memories as kids, of blasting Nirvana in the car and hearing Smashing Pumpkins on the radio. But the difference is that those styles never particularly appealed to me. Even when I did come to an age where they made more sense-- grunge being the pissy step-child of alternative rock, for instance-- I never found myself too invested in those particular scenes. The Things We Think We’re Missing
wears the influences of its past on its sleeve, but for someone like me who has always been fonder of the future’s promises, this album feels a bit too expired.
There’s a way to incorporate these alt. rock hybrids into a satisfying blend, and the key is emphasizing their dynamics. The Things We Think We’re Missing
is a single musical statement, and sure, its uniformity is admirable to a point. But homogeneous records must go out of their way to be emotionally palatable, and by this album’s conclusion, it feels as if the same song and dance has been recreated a few too many times. This album is mid-tempo alternative rock, encased in hazy atmospherics and swirling reverb, and it’s the style of music that struggles to properly pace itself when being propped up by nothing else. This release is also counterintuitive in that it depends on atmospherics over melody. Case in point, it’s exceedingly rare for singer Jon Simmons to carry a melody that’ll really stick. He contributes to the music’s dim soundscape while never quite navigating it-- he’s either an unreliable captain or an overreaching crewman, and this ambiguity is clear enough in his nonchalant delivery. In songs like “Notice Me,” Simmons doesn’t seem to desire being noticed one bit. He and his band have some endgoal in mind, but for the life of me, I can’t put my finger on what. The song is most effective when it crashes out of existence by riding tidal waves of reverb, and at that point I’m interested to hear if Balance and Composure is going to lose its ***-- but no, “Notice Me” wraps itself up in an expectedly tidy and safe manner. So it goes.
The primary points carried forth on this release are the ones the band sounds the least enthusiastic about, which leads to a resoundingly disappointing follow-up to 2011’s Separation
. I could sing to that album in the car; I could attach myself to it wholeheartedly. But with The Things We Think We’re Missing
, I’m puzzled at how little there is to latch onto. The ride is airy, polished and ultimately unaffecting. Sometimes I convince myself I need to give it another go, that maybe I’m going about the process all wrong, but then it makes sense-- this album is tailored for Balance and Composure and only them. Some listeners have been through the same experiences the group has, having growed up on the reverb-laced grunge this album adores-- and so these fans find themselves tethered to the atmospheric aesthetic this album presents over its melodies. But for everyone else, this is dull and lifeless, lacking any definitive melody to provide meaning to this otherwise drab trip into alternative rock. While the band’s earlier music also treaded an exceedingly familiar stylistic tightrope, it wore its rigid production on its sleeve to brand itself a distinct identity. But this record is just safe music in a safe context, and I can’t bring myself to feel anything but numb to it.