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If you read our review on Taking Back Sunday's newest record from the other day, you'll know my opinions of alternative rock, and what it should be. Things get boring when bands don't try and push the boundaries of a genre that's admittedly oversaturated with artists that have the same sound.
There are plenty of great bands who do something different and memorable with their music, though. Some make statements, while others bring in new elements from elsewhere. Lots of bands have brought in influence from electronica, and it's becoming hard to do it well. Young Guns nailed the electronic rock sound on their new album, Echoes, though!
The album's blend of electronica and alternative rock is some of the best the genre has seen in awhile. 'Mad World' is perhaps the pinnacle of this on the album. The song's massive atmosphere is the result of cavernous, stadium-filling drums and an electrifying guitar riff that open the song, leading into the immense choruses with huge power in them.
Another moment that exhibits some great power is 'Bulletproof', the album's opening track. It immediately becomes clear that vocalist Gustav Wood has one of the best voices in alt. rock; the perfect amount of strength, smoothness, and raspiness make his voice an important of the band's sound. His range is also pretty impressive, considering the beginning track alone. The great guitar of 'Bulletproof' gives way to the synth intro of title track 'Echoes', which is pure alternative rock with its simple verses and big choruses. It even has that poetic writing style to it, most notably the line "You're beautiful when you decay" in the choruses.
With all its great moments, there are still a few dull ones. The center of the album is where the real electronic meat comes in, and some tracks are pretty standard. We get Starset vibes in 'Awakening' and some great, empowering gang vocals, but other than that the music feels pretty standard, like we've heard it all before. 'Living In A Dream Is So Easy' is completely standard without much else to offer. They also attempted to end the album on some slower tracks - three, which is far too many, and with not enough to offer. Starting the trifecta with 'Mercury In Retrograde', it gets off on a sweet start, but an underwhelming start all the same. The following songs are pretty average and don't offer much, ending the album off on a weak note.
Echoes is a good album, but not great. It shows that Young Guns has a lot of potential, and four albums into their career you know they're posing a threat to their competition. Their sound keeps getting stronger, but it's not quite at a point where it could be truly something fascinating. Maybe their next record will be the one that changes things.
Favorite Tracks: Mad World, Bulletproof, Echoes
Least Favorite Tracks: Living In A Dream Is So Easy, Mercury In Retrograde
Rating: 75 / 100
Alternative rock is a great genre - my personal favorite. The saddest thing to see in such a great genre is when bands put the absolutely standard effort into their releases, trying to boost sales and appeal by doing the absolute minimum. You can imagine the disappointment when Taking Back Sunday's new album Tidal Wave has little if any innovation, or even an attempt at getting out of their comfort zone.
In such an extensive and massively populated genre, you need one of two things to succeed in it: either something different in your sound or a following that you got at the start of one of the genres movements. Taking Back Sunday followed the second of the two, their formation in 1999 and their post-hardcore roots gaining them a following as they evolved from the screamo mainstream to alternative rock.
It doesn't seem to have done them any favors as far as Tidal Wave is concerned. Seeing progression like that from a band is always great, but it needs something to it, or else it just seems like they're selling out and doing it for the money. This album starts off with promise in 'Death Wolf', a big beginning to the record that does sound pretty standard as it progresses. The rock vibes are evident within the verses and chorus, creating momentum and setting the tone of the album. The title track 'Tidal Wave' follows suit, carrying the momentum and tone forward in much the same way the previous track did. It's almost hard to differentiate the two songs, them being so similar and appearing consecutively.
It's excusable to have a few tracks that have a familiar sound, but the line has to be drawn when the music has little, if anything to offer that'll pique your interest. There are lots of tracks that have little pieces in them that may perk your ears at the start, but don't follow through with the new ideas: 'Fences' has sweet strings in its intro, but are replaced by guitars until the bridge, which sounds weak in comparison to the bustling guitars that formed the verses and choruses, 'Call Come Running' has synths in the intro that just don't sound right in the context of a song that's otherwise pretty good, if not for the odd dissonance, and 'I'll Find A Way To Make It What You Want', the album's closing track, with potential to be one of the album's best with its engrossing intro and massive ending, is ruined by the awful drumming at the end. It has no rhythm to it, it's just a "hit things on each beat until its over" deal.
There are some good tracks on the album yet. 'I Felt It Too' is a very sweet song, not plagued by brickwalled guitars (seriously, this album is loud and clips horrifically) and the monotonous vocals. Instead, it's a clean track that builds into a big epic moment that ends right before it climaxes in just the right way. It's as if the emotions of the song are about to spill over and let loose, but it's held back by remembering the message of the song. 'We Don't Go In There' is a song that begins on a peaceful acoustic guitar before evolving into a powerful, anthemic rock track. This is alternative rock done correctly.
Tidal Wave is the band's seventh album, but it sounds like they have a long way to go before they crack the surface of true success. This album has less substance (and even less quality with the horrible mastering) and a heavy commercial influence laced in it. It's simply just boring as a whole. It's good moments are there, but everything else is highly unmemorable. Better luck next time.
Favorite Tracks: We Don't Go In There, I Felt It Too
Least Favorite Tracks: You Can't Look Back, In The Middle Of It All, Holy Water
Rating: 56 / 100