Have you ever listened to an album that you thought was particularly intriguing in the moments that you're listening to it, but yet you knew full well that when it finally reached its end, you would never listen to it again? Meltdown
, at least from my perspective, has more than a few songs that can be quite catchy, and at times even capable of conjuring up some undeniable pop hooks, but there isn't anything truly special behind any of it. There's nothing memorable or unique that coerces the listener to return. Every song is so monotonously formulated. As its name so discernibly implies, Meltdown
is a concept album of sorts. It is, as vocalist Gabriel Hart describes it, “a dissection of the personal Apocalypse." In other words, it's all about roving through the shadowy, back alleys of the human mind to, not only confront, but understand our darker selves.
Now, while all of the 'high-drama' that's meant to be emphasized in the album might sound like a fitting soundtrack for those moments when melancholia decides to colour our lives with a shade of blue, the majority of the tracks fail to deliver any kind of profound emotional impact. The lyricism itself tries so desperately to be deep and emotive, but more often than not fails to do so. And on top of that, the singers that narrate these lyrics can occasionally be so over-the-top theatrical, that most of the songs have nothing else to offer but a whirlwind of clichés. Taking cues from artists like Nick Cave, the Paisley Underground, and Born to Run
-era Bruce Springsteen, Jail Weddings gather up everything they love about their beloved influences and attempt to successfully merge 'noir'-hued lyricism with 'anti-pop' dynamics. It's an intriguing idea, and the musical compositions themselves are expertly arranged indeed, but a lot of the tracks share an identical aesthetic, mentality, and repertoire, and therefore blend together to the point where the album itself just becomes a blur of melodramatic mediocrity.
The only two things that Meltdown
has going for it is the talent of its vocalists and Jail Weddings' overall eagerness for radical genre-hopping. "Angel Of Sleep" shows a great synergy between Gabriel Hart's masculine baritone and the gentler ranges of the aiding female back-up choir that compliments his leads. The song starts off with back-up singers setting up a doo-wop melody that allows Gabriel Hart to just slide into the spotlight and lets his slick, yet at times soulful, voice take control. It makes for a very catchy vocal arrangement, and when combined with the mood-shifting, bluesy pop-rock instrumentals, it morphs into a strikingly lavish, yet harmonious, highlight. "May Today be Merciful" and "A Promise" are also noteworthy in the sense that we get to see what these vocalists can do individually. "A Promise" features Jada Wagensomer taking the role of front(wo)man, and her performance here is just absolutely incendiary. She brings an equilibrium of eeriness and flourishing passion whenever the atmosphere calls for it and with perfect precision too. There's a kind of moody, '60s-styled baroque pop ambience happening here, and I find it to be somewhat influenced by Brian Wilson's signature repertoire. Much like his own works, there's a small choir ensemble aiding to embellish the center vocals, which gives forth a dazzling unified harmony, and the densely layered arrangement of the instrumentals brings some fascinating variations in sound on what is otherwise a seemingly simple melody. "May Today be Merciful" is pretty much the "Gabriel Hart show", and he definitely replicates some of Nick Cave's emotive, yet slyly sinister, aura. There's a very powerful quality in his voice, it's both alluring and impactive at the same time. It just has that natural scotch-charred, bluesy-tone to it, which fits quite comfortably with Jail Wedding's 'noir-pop' sound.
The singing in the album is pitch-perfect, and the deliveries are always full off energy but unfortunately lacking in soul. Although to be clear, that has nothing to do with the abilities of the singer(s) as much as it has to do with the lyrics they're unfortunately required to work with. The recurring theme seems to be about a protagonist's quest from being a shallow nihilist to unearthing some deep revelation about their actions and inner thoughts. And while some songs express a (somewhat) sincere moral quandary ("Why is it So Hard To Be Good?"), others are just (possibly satirical) ramblings of shallow and, for lack of a better word, abstract romances ("Party Girl" and "Father's Eyes"). If Jail Weddings' really want to orchestrate some powerful catharses here, they need to strive for lyrical depth, or at least go beyond the "wistful rebel" mindset. But where Jail Wedding's fail in creative lyricism, they more than make up for in energy and musical innovation. In all honesty, the lyrics wouldn't even be so much of an issue if the production wasn't so centered around the vocals. In fact, one of Jail Wedding's biggest strengths is how they gather a vast variety of moods and genres, and mold them together into unique creations. One will hear everything from surf-rock accentuations in the guitar work, gospel-styled choirs, baroque moodiness, and even touches of celtic folk melodies. But while the instrumentation and discipline that the musicians are working with are taken from backgrounds as diverse as '60s "open-minded" psychedelia and '80s 'artsy' pop-punk, the cleverness of the instrumental arrangements is often shun to the background while the voice of the singers is placed at center stage. Now, there's nothing wrong with the vocals being the most prominent element in the music, but again, it comes to a point where no matter how talented a band's singer(s) may be, it gets rather tiresome to hear 14 different tracks with so many words to say, but never uttering anything insightful.