Review Summary: Thought radio rock was dead? Well, you're right. But at least there's hope for the future.Out of nowhere
– that’s the best way I can describe Failure Anthem’s sudden ascendance within the genre of hard rock. I know that many of us like to pretend that talented, wholly accessible rock bands are a dime in a dozen, but the truth is that very few of them that can pull off that combination of traits successfully. Alter Bridge is a band that immediately comes to mind when listening to these guys; perhaps even with a trace of old school Seether, but there’s not very many other bands that you can readily equate them to. The mystery, then, of how
they seemingly rose to prominence overnight begins to unravel. Hard rock, radio rock, or whatever
you want to call it died sometime in the mid-2000s, so when a band like Failure Anthem comes along with a debut as strong and immediate as First World Problems
, it’s almost as if they become relevant by default. Failure Anthem, however, is more than just an opportunistic band recognizing a void and filling it. First World Problems
showcases an ideal blend of what it takes to be popular and what it takes to be good – and while the former may take some time to come to fruition, the latter is already proving to be true.
First World Problems
is a soaring, radio-ready rock album. The choruses are simple but memorable, thriving on frontman JD Eubanks’ powerful yet deceivingly versatile vocals. The melodies present on tracks such as ‘Paralyzed’ or ‘Leap of Faith’ are proof that the band has what it takes to stick around with the likes of Breaking Benjamin, Alter Bridge, and other hard rock staples. The guitar contributions, while technically proficient, rarely exceed expectations – they’re essentially just a steady source of riffs to ensure that the pace of the record remains upbeat at all times. If you’re looking for their best guitar work, you probably don’t need to listen past the opening title track, which features one of their better solos towards the song’s latter half. The most disappointing aspect of the record most likely comes in the form of the group’s percussive offering, which is rarely ambitious enough to deviate from the song’s established pace – a safe, mid-tempo drumming pattern that allows the focus to remain on the vocals. When you take everything into account, it would be fair to describe Failure Anthem as an amalgamation of the Seethers, Shinedowns, Breaking Benjamins, et al of the world with the fortunate asset of having a vocalist in the realm of guys like Myles Kennedy and Chris Robertson.
The real strength of First World Problems
is the songwriting. In a genre that is inherently homogenous, the ability to deliver an entire album of engaging, creative songs can be the difference between a band that earns critical praise and one that draws petitions in an attempt to stop them from creating music. First World Problems
is as fresh sounding of a hard rock record as I’ve heard since the genre’s aforementioned heyday. The opening trifecta (‘First World Problems’, ‘The Ghost Inside’, ‘Paralyzed’) all serve as pretty standard (albeit good) rock songs, while the middle section and back half proves to be far more expansive. The track listing and overall ebb and flow of an album isn’t often considered to be very important, especially on overtly accessible rock records, but on First World Problems
it is a noticeable strength. ‘Here For Good’ possesses one of the album’s more stunning bridges, while ‘Carousel’ features beautiful female vocal contributions that results in a downright haunting duet. As the album comes to a close, ‘One Step at a Time’ offers up the band’s most infectious and pop-leaning rhythm, all before ‘I Won’t Say Goodbye’ draws the curtain for good with an uplifting anthem that seems to be dedicated to keeping a relationship alive – all too appropriate for fans who might not want the experience to end.
Failure Anthem’s debut is nothing out of the ordinary. It is just catchy, upbeat rock music executed by a group of musicians with a little bit of talent and vision. They have plenty of flaws, and they aren’t the next coming of the Foo Fighters, but they are definitely creating new waves of energy in a genre pool that has been stagnant for years – a feat worth lauding in itself. If you don’t mind the intrinsic faults of popular rock music, then First World Problems
is likely a debut that will capture your interest from start to finish. Even if you’re a cynic like me, there’s enough quality material that you just might get caught off-guard and find yourself enjoying this album more than you ever expected (or wanted) to. Regardless of whether they spark a small amount of interest or ignite a blaze, the fact that they’re just getting started means that the future is looking up for this group of young rockers.