Review Summary: Lower Than Atlantis move into power-pop territory; catchiness ensues.
Lower Than Atlantis have always had a mad sensibility for melody – there’s a reason they’re now one of the most popular rock bands in the UK after four short years since their debut record. Mike Duce’s voice is so smooth it makes me wish I was a girl so I had panties I could drop, and the band’s use of exotic intervals and chords usually reserved for more complex music gives them a texture no other band can claim. The group cycled quickly through their formative post-hardcore days, quickly adopting an alt rock sound on their breakthrough sophomore album “World Record”. The major label follow up “Changing Tune” kept the basics but lost quite a bit of its bite, both for better and for worse. The band knew they needed to change things up in a major way for their fourth release, and change they did: the band finally has the sonic variety one would expect out of a band with major label resources. The results are mixed, but overall the album is a success and proves that Lower Than Atlantis could be a formidable force in the pop rock world.
The record is most compelling when the band is working with familiar territory. Lead singles “Here We Go” and “English Kids In America” are full of atmosphere, catchy choruses, and energetic performances. But the poppier experiments the band indulges in are also great, with the electronic stutters and dancy pace of “Ain’t No Friend” making it ripe for some sort of inevitable EDM remix, and the cinematic violins transforming “Criminal” from a boring track into something special (the major label bling that made this possible is even addressed in the song itself – “Is it really selling out if we just use them for their funds"”, Duce muses). Just like in modern pop music, it’s really the small touches that make the songs stick out – the band flirts with slap bass on “Words Don’t Come So Easily” and with more complex guitarwork on “Just What You Need”. The songs that don’t do anything special like “Emily” and “Time” are the most boring tracks here, but even they manage to be catchy at the most basic level.
“Lower Than Atlantis” doesn’t have the punk energy of the first three records, and I’d be lying if I said I thought the band dropped it completely naturally. No, the band is obviously writing music for a wider audience now that they play to one, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Lower Than Atlantis is a band that deserves to be hugely popular, and a band that deserves to be writing the soundtrack that all of Europe sings to in the summer. There’s more than a few growing pains associated with the change in sound, but I’d say our summers are now in capable hands.