Review Summary: A collection of fun songs to chill out to.
When I was a young whippersnapper, nearly ten years ago, my family took a long road trip. To keep the family entertained on the long drive, my dad made a CD full of pop rock songs he had heard on the radio. Amongst these were “Everybody, Everybody” by Black Box, “Just Play Music” by Big Audio Dynamite, “Say You Will” by Fleetwood Mac, and “Absolutely,” by Nine Days. A collection of fun tunes, no doubt. One of these tracks that later really grew on me, though, was “Our Last Night,” by Better Than Ezra. Time passed, and the CD and all of its songs faded out of my memory. Then, one day, about a year ago, I decided to check out the songs again. I had completely forgotten about “Our Last Night,” and am still unsure to this very day whether it was really on the CD. Regardless, the song soon became an oft listened to track for a couple of months. The name of the album, Before The Robots
, intrigued me. It sounded like the name of a dystopian rock opera along the lines of 2112
or maybe Danger Days
. It’s not. But that doesn’t mean that, despite lacking some high-quality lyrics, Before The Robots
is still a fun album to listen to.
Better Than Ezra, though maintaining a constant style, has drawn influences from lots of different types of rock music. Deluxe
was definitely a wannabe Weezer-type record, while Friction Baby
could only be described as light grunge. [i]How Does Your Garden Grow[i/] has a definite OK Computer
vibe (without being a Radiohead clone), and [i]Closer[i/] had its electronic influences. Before The Robots
is pop rock, pure and simple. And, might I add, it is produced excellently. The first power chord of album opener “Burned” feels like a breath of fresh air. The whole album is filled with great sounding guitars, often many of them overdubbed on each other. Strings, synthesizers, and other instruments all come together to make an album with a pleasing sound. “A Southern Thing” is filled with country style, twangy guitars, while “Juicy” could be a synth-pop jam. Kevin Griffin’s vocals sound right at home in this big-production, pop rock setting. The sound of his vocals between the power chords in songs like “Burned” and “A Southern Thing” is always nice to hear. That’s all very well and good.
Better Than Ezra has always been known for songs about love, relationships, breakups, separations, heartache, and high school. Before The Robots
is no exception. Kevin Griffin still belts out them ballads like he always has. Songs like “Daylight,” “Overcome,” “Breathless,” and, of course, “Our Last Night” are certainly in that category. However, there Griffin definitely out to sing about more than his emotional pain in Before The Robots
. Songs like the tragic “A Lifetime” (a rerecorded song from Closer
), and the nostalgic but upbeat “American Dream” tells the stories of teens who’s lives either passed by too quickly, or didn’t happen at all. Of course, with that description, there might not be anything stopping Better Than Ezra from winning Pitchforks staff picks for the year. The persistent issue with the lyrics is this: They aren’t especially deep. They try. But they try so hard, that they fail, and the effect backfires. Lots of the songs turn into skip-tracks, like “Overcome,” “It’s Only Natural,” and “Special.” All in all, except for a couple of songs, the tracks really aren’t anything really special. It’s not thinking man’s music. But it’s not supposed to be. One simply listens to Before The Robots
just to chill out, and then, it becomes pretty enjoyable.
Our Last Night