Review Summary: The Apes evolved.
The development and morphing of an artist's sound over the course of their career is an inevitability, and the "heavy band becoming softer" transformation is so common it's practically cliché. It shouldn't have come as a surprise that Guano Apes followed this trend upon their reform and subsequent album, yet look up any song from Bel Air on Youtube and there's almost always a comment or two about how much they suck now from people who'd rather they rewrote Open Your Eyes ten times for their next LP. Those with that mindset may want to find a new band to follow, as somewhere during their hiatus, the Apes evolved.
And so goes Offline. It's about as predictable a follow up to Bel Air as one could expect. Sandra Nasic is still a powerhouse frontwoman with a slight case of second-language-itis. The heavy funk basslines and nu-metal riffs of old remain a thing of the past, in favour of alt-rock powerchord driven songs. And whilst the quirkiness may have been toned down, there's still hints of it on show. Guano Apes may have "gone pop" to an extent upon resuming, but they haven't forgotten how to be themselves.
Unfortunately though, that's not enough to mask the sound of a band playing it safe. The production is noticeably more raw than Bel Air, with the layers of backing vocals and glossy synth pads having been stripped back, but it just serves to showcase their blunted edges. It's the sort of album where very few songs stand out as being noticeably better or worse than the others. Everything is done well, but not remarkably so. You've got the mid-tempo rock balladeering of Numen
and lead single Close To The Sun
, the upbeat, pop tinged Hey Last Beautiful
and Water Wars
, the spaced out closer The Long Way Home
, and so on and so forth.
provides much of a call back to some of their pre-breakup weirdness, with an unexpected and admittedly effective rap section complete with arabic scale strings. Sadly it's by far the most questionable song lyrically, the opening line "I wanna jiggle around like Humpty-Dumpty" sticking out like a sore thumb. Opener Like Somebody
fares better, throwing in a surprise time signature change that builds into the most memorable moment on the album. The aformentioned The Long Way Home
is another highlight, a laid back, sunset coloured song that stays content bathing in synth pad atmospherics. It's like nothing they've ever done before, and it works brilliantly.
If you've heard Close To The Sun
, you already know whether you'll like this album or not. It's a solid and consistent album that takes few risks and generally does pretty much what you'd expect it to, for better or for worse. Given their history and ability, it's just a shame to hear Herrs Rumenapp, Ude and Poschwatta exercising so much restraint and playing it so safe. Still though, with such a commanding and distinctive vocalist as Sandra Nasic is it's hard for them to go wrong.