Thursday, December 6, 2012

Does it Rock? The Airborne Toxic Event, "Changing"

Airborne Toxic Event's second album, All At Once, is halfway to a good album. And that isn't to say that half the songs are good and half are bad. Most of the songs here have something to recommend them. They're obviously good musicians with an ear for massive, arena-level hooks in the tradition of U2. The production is crisp and although there's a lot going on in each song, and from one song to the next, taken on their own they work.

My own issue with the album, though, is that they could stand to loosen up. Massive hooks go a long way to setting a mood and imprinting a song in people's minds, your lyrics don't always need to be so particular. There's a reason why most U2 songs have lyrics that are maddeningly vague: because the music, and Bono's delivery, does so much of the heavy lifting. ATE leader Mikel Jollett is obviously pretty literary, which is why he named his band in reference to a Don DiLillo book that you have to have been a Contemporary Lit major to have read (hey guys) but if he could follow the old writer's axiom to "kill your darlings," he might pare his lyrics back to something that enhances rather than distracts.

That's why I like "Changing," which is the best example, among a few, of the band letting the music do the talking. It's a good, lyrically uncomplex, yet still complete song. The way he sings the chorus, that's exactly what you're supposed to do with a song like this. There are a few other tracks on the album that really get it, like "Numb" and "All At Once." "All I Ever Wanted" comes close. But I can't quite put my stamp of approval on the whole piece.

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