Review Summary: Fans of Jet and Wolfmother, brace yourselves. It’s about to get ugly in here.
Before I go off on a tirade about how The Explorers Club became a complete fraud, allow me to preface this by stating that 2008’s Freedom Wind
actually wasn’t bad. While the transparency of their Beach Boys idolizing was utterly ridiculous, it was a passable record because not only was every track expertly produced and exceptionally catchy, but there was this lingering trace of alternative-styled individuality that gave rise to the belief that The Explorers Club could, at some point in the future, develop an album that wasn’t pure mimicry. As most of us looked the other way and indulged the guilty pleasure, the band was hard at work making Grand Hotel
– something that should never have seen the light of day if only one person in the five piece outfit had the courage to stand up and call bullshit.
It doesn’t matter how talented the members of any hypothetical band are. If your music is a stenciled version of another well-known, widely acclaimed, and historically revered act – and you don’t eventually develop some artistic fucking curiosity and endeavor for an identity that is your own
– you will end up like Jet or Wolfmother. For some reason unbeknownst to the enlightened half of the music community, they thought that they could be
the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, respectively. Were their debuts a refreshingly nostalgic vacation from the modern music scene" Maybe. It depends on who you ask. But when they came back with their second (or god forbid third, in Jet’s case) album spewing more of the same retro-happy drivel, everyone got fed up and bailed – unless you are that die hard fan still patiently waiting for Wolfmother’s follow-up to Cosmic Egg
, in which case good for you
! Here we observe The Explorers Club, and unfortunately, they have come down with a god awful case of the think-they’re-the-Beach Boys. I’m no doctor, but after hearing Grand Hotel
my prognosis is that the condition is terminal.
As a listener, it is generally important that you try to see beyond a band’s influences. After all, very few things left in music are completely original anymore. Unfortunately, even with all glaringly obvious inspirations generously brushed to the wayside, Grand Hotel
is still a colossal failure. Unlike Freedom Wind
, it is not memorable or infectious in the slightest. One track rolls into another with indifference, falsetto choruses are haphazardly tossed all over the place, and there is this annoyingly upbeat – almost “chirpy” – pervading atmosphere that seems to suggest that The Explorers Club couldn’t be happier about wasting your time. The lead single, ‘Run Run Run’ makes a rather sloppy attempt at channeling the band’s inner Dion & the Belmonts, but collapses under the overbearing weight of its ultra repetitive chorus, which consists of the song’s title being repeated over and over again. ‘Anticipatin’ meanders for several minutes before erupting into Brian Wilson-esque high pitched vocals, which marks one of the album’s only highlights despite its discord with the rest of the song. The title track is an instrumental parade of unnecessary orchestration, which in its upbeat nature ends up sounding like either a Mexican-themed fiesta or a circus gone terribly wrong. The second half of the album almost
fares better, with the romantic ballads ‘It’s No Use’ and ‘It’s You’ offering brief glimpses of redemption through their scaled down production and focus on the at times beautiful vocal harmonies. But alas, the presence of tracks such as the overly rambunctious but substance-lacking ‘I’ve Been Waiting’, along with the completely cheesy ‘Summer Days, Summer Nights’, decimate any hope that begins to sprout.
The main problem with most of the songs on Grand Hotel
stem from The Explorers Club’s inability to moderate pretty much anything. The Beach Boys worshipping is so blatant that it begs another mention, but at an even more fundamental level, they simply can’t seem to figure out when to tone things down. The album is absurdly jovial, and the simple fact that no sane person in the world is that
goddamned happy should have raised a few red flags when they stopped to listen to what they were playing. The whole thing reeks of zealousness taken to an extreme, as if they heard their parents’ favorite records when they were thirteen and were given a complete set of instruments and Prozac. More variation in the song structures would have helped, but it is not like altering the tempo would have made this effort a resounding success, either. They simply need a wider range of ideas, along with emotions to go along with them. Past albums by the band have always seen them teetering on the edge, but they managed to remain grounded…unfortunately, here they have finally floated away – with smiles on their faces and copies of Pet Sounds
in their hands. Just like their “throwback” peers before them, the sophomore record marks doom for The Explorers Club. And as for that Grand Hotel
, I recommend an early checkout.