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Saosin – Saosin

Saosin is a consistent, well-produced, but certainly contrived effort; it stretches the emo/pop genre on occasions but is seemingly content with using by-the-numbers formulas as a substitute for breaking genre norms

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One of the biggest criticisms that anyone can volley over at the current crop of post-hardcore/emo outfits finding their way onto greater pastures is their seemingly unrelenting self-importance either bestowed upon them by their own mouths, or by those who blindly follow in every song leaked, every MySpace bulletin released, and just about anytime a band member celebrates their birthday. Sure enough, much talk has surrounded Saosin ever since they burst on to the collective psyche of every swoopy-haired kid, propelled more than anything, by former lead vocalist Anthony Green’s incredible vocal prowess. And of course, all the talk turned to them again when he surreptitiously departed the group to do Circa Survive, leaving a rather large hole to fill and lingering questions about whether the group was really anything but a rather ordinary band with a great singer. Sure enough, they did what any intelligent ordinary band would do and recruited someone whose voice bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Green’s.

Several releases on, Saosin embark on the perilous journey of the major label game and living up to the expectations held close to every scene kid’s heart. And upon initial consumption, Saosin is at least a far more interesting listen to anything they’ve previously done. The music itself, rooted deeply in the heavily melodic side of post-hardcore, still trots out to a more mid-tempo tone; building upon some solid instrumental groundwork seen previously in acts like Armor for Sleep and Glassjaw. While the rest of the band seem content in being the backdrop in which (current vocalist Cove) Reber’s vocals flail from one side of the range spectrum to the other, they do enough to maintain some level of energy through the songs- so that the slower paced ones (like “Finding Home” and “Come Close”) can keep up with those exhibiting a bit more exuberance (“It’s So Simple” and “Follow and Feel”).

The first single, the aptly titled “Voices,” is the benchmark for the album’s heart-carved sentiments; an anthemic tune in which the best of the band’s cathartic outpouring and musical abilities mesh together in almost perfect synthesis. It is however, not the album’s apex- that is reserved for “You’re Not Alone,” undoubtedly the current standard for youthful naiveté and poetically sound music coming together for a skin-tingling, “walking off into the sunset” homage to hope and positivity wrapped up in theatrical emo monster-balladry. It’s the “Jack & Diane” for the Laguna Beach generation.

These highlights aside, the rest of the album is done convincingly enough- even if it never really excels. A lot of the material seems to blend together and after a few listens, the choruses and verses, along with Reber’s singing, mesh together so much that few moments stand out as remarkable. Saosin is a consistent, well-produced, but certainly contrived effort; it stretches the emo/pop genre on occasions but is seemingly content with using by-the-numbers formulas and vaudevillian romance as a substitute for breaking genre norms. They are certainly on top of the pile, and the kids are going to love this one- but it would be hard pressed to believe that they will somehow break free from the chains of unlikely possibilities. Even though Saosin are one of the best at what they do, they seem destined to forever chase the ghosts of lofty expectations.

(Capitol Records)

Reviews

Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs EP

Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper

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Alice Cooper Breadcrumbs

For a large number of Alice Cooper fans who didn’t experience everyone’s favorite snake-adorned shock rocker at the height of his powers through the ’70s, most probably were introduced to Cooper through 1989’s hair-metal infused generational breakout album Trash. That was at least, my introduction to Vincent Furnier, at the age of 9 years old, seeking for something to satiate my love of hair metal and shock rock. Trash was everything Bon Jovi’s New Jersey was- big, radio-friendly- but had that added sense of danger and darkness that didn’t come with the pretty side of hair metal. However, as sure as songs like “House of Fire“, “Bed of Nails“, and the ubiquitous hit “Poison”, are still great today, long-time Alice Cooper fans know that Cooper is at his most enthralling is when he taps into his garage rock lineage, cut from the same mold that was paved by bands like the MC5.

So for those born in the early 80s like myself, the initial foray into the world of Alice Cooper meant that you had to work your way back into this long-running discography to find the rich, often timeless work Cooper is best known for. In 2019 Alice Cooper himself is working his way back on his latest EP, the aptly titled Breadcrumbs. The 6-song EP finds Cooper revisiting music and artists connected thematically by what ties them all together- the Motor City. This Detroit-centric EP features Alice Cooper’s take on songs by Suzi Quatro, The Dirtbombs, Motown soul singer Shorty Long, and of course, The MC5 (the EP also features guest guitar and vocal work from Wayne Kramer). Included in the mix are a reworked version of the 2003 Alice Cooper song “Detroit City” and one new cut, “Go Man Go”.

On his reworked “Detroit City”, the song is given a rawer makeover, sounding far less produced than the original. Gone are the orchestral overdubs with the song relying more on the loud bluesy guitars- perhaps the way it was meant to sound. Suzi Q’s “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” stays fairly faithful to the original, but Quatro’s vocal sneer is replaced with.. well, Alice Cooper’s vocal sneer. MC5’s “Sister Anne” is almost as great as the original 1971version, with the added benefit of today’s production qualities.

The EP’s one new track, “Go Man Go”, is very much Detroit, and very much Alice Cooper. It’s rock n’ roll roots are coated with a little bit of rockabilly, a little bit of garage, a lot of attitude. Like this EP, the track should be a precursor of Alice Cooper’s anticipated next album. The hope is that he continues this work of keeping things dirty rock n’ roll as the results are more often than not, pretty great.

Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper. Breadcrumbs is a noble effort meant to tease and build anticipation than satisfy your craving for all new Alice Cooper material. It’s done just that, hinting at what could be around the corner. On top of which it shows that there are few rock stars who will ever reach the status and longevity of everyone’s favorite rock n’ roll snake charmer.

(earMUSIC)

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Reviews

Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill

The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good

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Goo Goo Dolls Miracle Pill

One of the most remarkable things about the Goo Goo Dolls is their steadfast consistency amongst the ever-changing backdrop of popular music. Six years ago when they released Magnetic, I wrote that the band remained unchanged in the face of their supposed “waning popularity” in the eyes of pop culture and radio charts. It’s true that many of their contemporaries that made it big alongside them in the late 1990s are long gone, but for the Goos, they’ve quietly continued to be above everything else, themselves, just older, wiser, and continuingly more refined. Miracle Pill is their 12th studio album and is the natural progression from 2016’s Boxes. Like their previous release, Miracle Pill continues their musical evolution away from alternative rock to the more serene territory of adult contemporary. Sure, it may sound like a bad thing, but like everything the Goos have done over the past 25 years, it’s supremely confident and composed.

They may not write songs with the caustic bite like “Here Is Gone” anymore, but they have been finding comfort in the more introspective pop-strewn melodies found in songs like “Lights”. Similarly, in the new album’s lead single and title track, the Goos tap into bouncy, easy-to-digest pop empowerment. Songs like “Indestructible” show that the band haven’t put down their guitars just yet, constructing songs that are still fond of their alternative rock roots but have found comfort in grander, more expansive sounds.

The album’s best moments are when the Goo Goo Dolls unashamedly tug on the heartstrings like they’ve done so many times before. The quiet jangly nature of “Over You” does this particularly well, while the bigger, electronic-infused arena rock of “Lost” shows that this type of music is just done extremely poorly by bands like Imagine Dragons. “Autumn Leaves” is a throwback to the kind of songs found on Let Love In and Dizzy Up The Girl, sounding organic and wistful, while the closing of “Think It Over” is the kind of song they’ve been hinting at since Something For The Rest Of Us. It’s part quintessential Goos, but contemporary and timeless at the same time.

Credit to the Robby Takac songs of the album too- “Step In Line”, “Life’s a Message”- both some of the finest songs Takac has written. He is often cast in the shadow of John Rzeznik’s more recognizable sound, but on Miracle Pill, his work is the best its sounded since Dizzy.

The Ringer recently wrote a piece titled ‘The Goo Goo Dolls Were Never the Cool Kids, but They’re Still Standing’. I echoed these sentiments in that Magnetic review years ago, but if there was anything long time Goo Goo Dolls fans know is that the band were never concerned about popularity or being “cool”. The problem with being cool in music is that it fades. The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good. Not much has changed in that sense, and really, that’s much better than being cool.

(Warner Bros.)

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