Review Summary: This could very well be the most lifeless album I've heard all year.
I’ve been intrigued by the possibility of a full-length Band Camino release for quite some time. Emerging from Memphis in the mid-2010s, the group’s early releases aimed to follow in the footsteps of the larger-than-life arena sound of The 1975 and Bad Suns, and were characterized by vivacious vocal delivery, surprisingly prodigious guitar chops, and frenetic drumming. Originality was always a struggle, particularly in the group’s lyricism. Looking back at the band’s debut EP My Thoughts On You
, there’s not very much that differentiates the anxiously attached and lovestruck narrative of “2/14” from any of the four tracks that follow it. This is why 2019’s tryhard
was so promising; growing pains were still evident, but the subject matter was expanding (try the wonderfully existential “Farsighted” on for size) and it was more massive sonically than anything that had preceded it. It was a worthwhile project full of anthemic, guitar-driven hooks that still felt exciting even when they didn’t quite hit the bulls-eye. All signs seemed to indicate that The Band Camino were headed for a triumphant actualization of their potential, so please explain to me why this could very well be the most lifeless album I’ve heard all year.
The majority of The Band Camino
sounds incredibly shallow and sluggish, which is a tragedy considering their track record thus far as one of the most reliable groups in the current pop rock scene. It’s a record that is simultaneously eager and terrified to experiment, which results in some horrific amalgamations of various pop tropes that all follow the exact same song structure despite taking 14 different janky dirt roads to get from point A to point B. Look at the track lengths if you don’t believe me; the amount of songs in the neighborhood of exactly three minutes flat is too damn high, and further proves that a large chunk of the tracklist is just the same song wearing different hats. This is especially tragic because The Band Camino have previously demonstrated their musicianship and songwriting capabilities to be exemplary. Earlier EP cuts like “Berenstein” sport labyrinthine song structures, meter shifts, and masterful use of tension and release that make them compelling to listen to. On this inconsequential and immaterial album, we are instead gifted with tracks like “1 Last Cigarette”, which is carried by robotic handclaps and some of the most emotionally disconnected vocal performances I’ve heard so far this year. There’s no question that Jeffrey Jordan and Spencer Stewart can both sing, but it’s their lethargic delivery that makes this one fall flat. While literally every song here follows the A-B-A-B-unnecessary 80s guitar solo format, this solo takes the cake as both the most out of place and overdone on the album.
Writing a record with one noteworthy misstep is forgivable, but the horrible reality is that “1 Last Cigarette” is one of the better offerings here, and some of the others should be labeled “BIOHAZARD” on streaming platforms. ”Sorry Mom” tries to do the cutesy coffee house John Mayer slap guitar thing, but instead of ruminating on mortality or painting a vibrant picture of the Atlanta jazz club scene, Jeffrey Jordan elects to start the hook off with the line “sometimes I get drunk / sometimes I say f*ck” and immediately lose me for the song’s remaining two and a half minutes, because have I mentioned yet that EVERY song on this album is exactly three minutes? ”Roses” presents itself as a nightmarish collaboration between Jack Antonoff, AJR, and 2010 Skrillex with needlessly censored lyrics and a keyboard solo that genuinely made me laugh. Thankfully, early highlights “Underneath My Skin” and “Know It All” at least sound like tried-and-true Band Camino songs and contain everything good about the band’s previous work. Jordan and Stewart’s unique vocal deliveries shine on these tracks, as well as Garrison Burgess’s propulsive percussion.
That’s about all there is that’s worth seeing here. Other songs attempt to remain attached to the project’s existing roots with less success. Opener “EVERYBODYDIES” frustrates even beyond the formatting of its track title by injecting what could have been a passable Band Camino banger with unnecessary gang vocals and a nauseatingly sugary post-chorus. When the group leans fully into their synthpop sound, the results range from the forgettable “Who Do You Think You Are?” (in which the most memorable aspect of the song is the lead synth that sounds like a fart) to the horrific “Look Up” (in which the lyrics are mostly lifted from a 2014 viral video that encouraged people to get off their phones, but in an extremely dickish way). “Just a Phase” attempts to merge the band’s rock and synthpop sides but opts for more auto-tune and WAY more rototoms than anyone asked for. Speaking of questionable percussion, if you like the cowbell you’re certainly in for a treat, and that treat is the musical root canal known as “I Think I Like You”, not to be confused with later tracks “Song About You” and “Help Me Get Over You”. If you’ve heard one, you’ve heard them all, and I don’t recommend you hear any. I think The Band Camino still have promise as a band, but unfortunately The Band Camino
sucks as an album. Frick.