Review Summary: Metal Gear Solid Ranked: sometimes i'm 4-2-1-3 but other times i'm 4-2-3-1... or 4-1-2-3? fuck
Usually, when a band crosses the proverbial rubicon, a certain fearlessness attaches. This moment is supposed to be mark the boldest point in the band's career, so when I heard that new wave revivalists The Sounds
(my third or fourth favorite band of swedes) had decided to title their third LP Crossing the Rubicon
, I foresaw this kind of change. I saw them transforming pop music in some sort of grand conquest... and I saw myself dancing along. It was a little gay.
Looking back, I'm not sure what I was thinking. I liked Crossing
well enough, and the album provided one or two great tracks, but I couldn’t really disagree with people who hated it. There just wasn't much there to celebrate. It was... just ok.
All the tweaks to make the band more accessible (pretty obviously) made them more boring. I understand that this phenomenon isn't all that groundbreaking (and that this isn't even a review of that album), but to go one step further: In our musical ecosystem, rock radio that endures has had to be comprised of diluted, tame archetypes of alt-indi-etal-unk so that it is able to appeal to people who, for some reason, haven't discovered the internet or at least how to use it properly (old people, dumb people, grammy voters, people who watch NCIS, people from Staten Island, etc.). MTV-esque pop music, on the other hand, seems better described as a rapidly revolving door of trendy rap-&B-tronica. Substance doesn't sell-- but innovation does. Either make or get with what's hot, but you better do it fast, and you sure as shit can't go backwards (exception that creates the rule: Lady Gaga).
So when The Sounds
, a band somewhere in the middle, set out to conquer pop music, their sweet, synthy mix of sappy love and LET'S PARTY, JA songs, were simultaneously too run-of-the-mill for one audience and too off-centre for another. What I should have realized then, and what Something to Die For
pretty firmly establishes now, is that the band's natural formula makes them a perfectly viable, behind-the-curve, 90's pop act... and I'm cool enough to be lame enough to like that.
The new album, the band's first release since signing with kitchen-sink-punk label SideOneDummy, is not a celebration of everything that made the band's first two albums excellent (danceable rock, sprinkled with synth, but raw enough to keep you interested). Instead, Something to Die For
is a simple, uncomplicated step in the right direction. It is more a perfection of the sound they tried for when they crossed on Rubicon
, with a few surprises here and there for good measure. "Better Off Dead," while hardly representative of the rest of the album, is the band's most adventurous song in years. "Diana," with some surprisingly pronounced guitar work, feels like the foot-tapper that "4 Songs & a Fight" should have been. "The No No Song," "Dance With the Devil," and the title track are equally as addicting.
You basically know what you're looking for if you're checking this out (which I obviously hope you are). The band has never been much for intricate songwriting, instrumentation or lyricism. Maja's vocals have always been the draw, and she doesn't disappoint. Besides being a little front-loaded (the songs discussed above are tracks two through six, and the end of the album is a bit sleepy), this is definitely good for a few plays.