Review Summary: Basement play it safe and neither thrill nor offend.
There’s a lot to be said for people who follow passions instead of pay checks. For Basement, getting part time jobs to fund hitting the road on tour, then rinsing and repeating the cycle ad infinitum was unsustainable. They only really had two options left open to them, make the band their livelihoods, or call it a day in search of the daily grind and the 9 to 5. For a couple of years Andrew Fisher and co chose the latter; Basement was chalked up as a fun-while-it-lasted project fuelled by the audacity of youth, but that viewpoint didn’t last long. As it so often does to people who love their craft, the passion resurfaced and usurped the all too comfortable promise of a steady job and a steady income. Given the road they’ve travelled and the sacrifices they’ve made to make Basement their whole lives, it’s not difficult to understand why Promise Everything
turned out the way it did. It’s full of melody and vocal hooks, and it treads the well compressed dirt of the road signposted ‘radio rock’.
The urgent vocals which comprised I Wish I Could Stay Here
have all but disappeared, and the gritty, grungy sound of Colourmeinkindness
has been toned down significantly too. In a nutshell, Promise Everything
sees Basement do their best Jimmy Eat World impression. It’s a comparison which they openly welcome, even describing themselves as “like that but a bit more abrasive.” While the comparison was likely a quick fix to satiate the needs of prying interviewers, it does hold true. The songwriting, the reliance on hooks, and vocalist Fisher doing his best Jim Adkins impersonation all attest to that. It’s debatable whether reducing themselves to little more than an abrasive Jimmy Eat World was part of their natural progression or whether they’ve compromised in order to feed both their love of music and their families, but the cynic in me leans toward the latter.
is undeniably the band’s most cohesive record yet, but some might find the tracks slightly indistinguishable as they bleed from one to the next. The fuzzy, distorted tone which the guitars adopt acts as the band’s comfort blanket as they burn from one mid-tempo rocker to the next, rarely deviating before returning to its familiar confines. It remains practically untouched throughout, and the lack of variety is one of the album’s main downfalls: it all feels a bit too safe, a bit too predictable, and a bit too easy
. Because of this, the times when they do choose to deviate from the formula stand out brightly and noticeably. The tasteful solo on “Submission,” the excellent opening riff to “Aquasun” which disappears much too quickly, and the shouted vocals at the end of “Lose Your Grip” all force you to pay attention to a record which is content far too often to let you breeze through it unharmed. Perhaps the album’s biggest success is the more-audible-than-ever bass work of Duncan Stewart, who is afforded more room to breathe and shines as a result: just take the midpoint of stellar title track “Promise Everything,” where he deviates from the lead guitars and lays down a superb groove which is steadily built upon, before the song rushes to its conclusion.
Ultimately, Promise Everything
is a solid collection of songs written by a band that, over the course of 3 albums, have shown that they rarely write a bad song. However, the majority of the songs feel a little too secure within their own skin; a little too tentative to deviate from the safety of their rough midtempo origins. There are moments, of course, but they’re too few and far between to make a lasting impact, certainly not enough to make you want to hit replay immediately. Basement are back and seemingly here to stay this time, and only time will tell if the compromises they’ve made to their sound will pay dividends. Promise Everything
neither thrills nor offends, but plenty will still find comfort in the easy listening experience it provides.