Review Summary: Boring and unimaginative rock with a glimmer of hope for something more.
It seems like successful side projects are part and parcel of Australia’s music scene lately. One only has to look at Ian Kenny’s Birds of Tokyo and Luke Steele’s Empire of the Sun to see that. Now, after dabbling in the side project business previously with the now defunct blues outfit Final Days of Autumn, Butterfly Effect singer Clint Boge is having a second crack at the caper with Thousand Needles in Red, this time returning to his heavier roots. The band was initially formed when guitarist Tristan Boulliaut, an old friend of Boge’s, asked the singer to listen to some of the music he had been writing. Boge liked it so much that he offered to sing on the tracks, seeing it as an outlet for his heavier influences, something which has quickly disappeared from The Butterfly Effect’s music. Bassist Pablo Fernandez and drummer Phil Eades were recruited and thus Thousand Needles in Red was born.
The EP gets off to a decidedly shaky start with the first track shooting straight to the top of the worst intros this reviewer has ever heard. Consisting of Boge repeating the band’s name over and over, the intro track does absolutely nothing for the EP. As Boge gradually moves towards a scream the track gets increasingly grating and in the end has the listener looking for the skip button. The EP picks up a little bit from there, with pseudo opener ‘Thousand Needles’ quickly blasting out of the speakers. Boge’s barked verses and melodic chorus over the top of Boulliaut’s straightforward guitar work make for a nice introduction to Thousand Needles in Red’s sound, albeit a generic one.
Unfortunately, whilst Boge’s consistently stellar vocals give the tracks a little spark; they do not however mask what the songs are for the most part, derivative and boring rock music. One only has to look as far as first single ‘Enemy Inside’ for an example, with the band doing nothing to depart from the standard radio rock structure. Such is the trend throughout the EP, one might notice that the initial guitar riff of ‘Thousand Needles,’ ‘Enemy Inside’ and ‘Wicker Man’ all sound EXACTLY THE SAME. In fact, those three songs all could have been B-Sides to The Butterfly Effect’s Begins Here
. This isn’t helped that for the most part, the rhythm section is seemingly just going through the motions. It’s as if Boge enjoyed returning to his “heavy” roots so much that he and Boulliaut thought using the same ideas three times over would be a smart move. Not so.
It’s not all doom and gloom for Thousand Needles in Red, though. There are some redeeming features on the EP. Ironically, it is when the band either mellow out or deviate from the traditional rock structures that they finally show some promise. The brilliant ‘Crown of Thorns’ shows off the direction The Butterfly Effect could have gone in after Begins Here, with Boge’s subdued vocals working well with Boulliaut’s strummed verses before exploding into quite a heavy chorus. ‘Crown of Thorns’ also shows something that has been missing from Boge’s repertoire of late, his deeper growls, which are used in the chorus to great effect. ‘Blackbird’ is the only other highlight, which sees the band deviate from their original sound into more mellow territory. Featuring piano, strings and a myriad of layered and heartfelt vocals, ‘Blackbird’ manages to convey something the majority of the EP couldn’t; emotion.
If you’re prepared to take Thousand Needles in Red’s debut for what it is, unimaginative and straightforward radio rock, then chances are you’ll enjoy this. However if you’re looking for something more, it might be wise to just listen to ‘Crown of Thorns’ and move on, because when Thousand Needles do deviate from their generic sound, they do in fact succeed. One thing you can’t deny is that Thousand Needles in Red are enjoying themselves, but here’s hoping the boys can come up with a few more ideas for their next release.