So, just to put them over there, here are some of the thoughts I e-mailed to a friend last night. (Why is this post of interest to any non-Marah fans? No clue. But if you know them, send me your thoughts on the new album.)
The album is simply overproduced. There’s barely a moment of silence or sparse instrumentation on the record. Some great songs get lost in the mixes, as astounding as some of these mixes may be. Sometimes the balls to the wall approach to the mixing board pays off big; sometimes Smashmouth pops too quickly to mind.
Marah’s definitely aiming for a more pop-sound; I think they could have stuck close to their rock roots and still accomplished this goal. While some of the openings and mid-tros in the songs are amazingly creatively, some of the guts are pure Smashmouth, which to me is laziness at the mixing board. You just bring the guitar levels all the way up, whether the guitars are interesting or not. The unfortunate result: No stand-out, stick-in-your-head riffs. There’s the basis of some good ones, but they get lost in the blander guitars.
There aren’t many standout songs. The highlights for me: “Float Away” is a killer opening song and an obvious single. Plus it’s been in my head all day. Crying on an Airplane is also terrific. Slow, airy, well-written. More stuff from the album should be like this.
I guess I’ve listened three times all the way through so far, trying to figure out what the brothers are trying to do here. It’s obvious they’re trying to go rock-pop and win big on MTV, but, knowing how deep they are, you gotta ask: Why? We know they can comprehend the darkness on the edge of town and write about it. I mean, these are the guys who wrote Round Eye Blues.
The only reason I can guess for the tremendous shift is that they’re trying to go out into the street, rope up a bunch of people, and then eventually bring them back in with some rock and roll. Knowing what we know, this album seems like a ploy for the masses. Then, on the next record, they can hit a middle ground — an upscale rock and roll sound that both appreciates silence and has a wide audience.
Maybe that’s just me being hopeful. But I think the “Bielankos have gone pop” explanation is just too easy, especially with Adams, Yorn, the Strokes, et cetera catching on.
So how many stars? I’d say two out of four. It has some terrific moments, but they come too few and far between. It definitely seems like a good driving album and has a party sound (albeit a ’90s party sound). I don’t know how much I’ll play it inside. This is not an album that encourages one to listen to the lyrics.
I think it has more possibilities live, when they simply don’t have the manpower to do the Smashmouth sound. The lyrics do seem strong, and I think the Bielankos would get bored with bland guitar sound on stage.
All in all, hopefully Marah has gone as close to pop as they want to go.