The Killers’ “Somebody Told Me” (and by extension Hot Fuss) was at the fore of the dance-rock craze, so it made sense for people to ignore the fact that half the album can’t be danced to at all (“All These Things That I’ve Done,” “Andy You’re a Star,” “Everything Will Be Alright,” among others). Instead, the Killers just wrote good, hook-laden pop-rock songs. The The The Thunder has a similar thing going on in their debut All at Once: there are some danceable moments that are easily latched onto, but the majority of this is indie rock.
“Indie rock” quickly becoming a synonym for “melodic rock that wants to be taken with some amount of seriousness,” and that holds for All At Once. The eight songs here feature a vocalist with a tonal resemblance to Brandon Flowers, a bevy of instrumentalists that know their way around a melodic hook, and a mood that hovers just above “serious music.” (Radiohead this isn’t; neither is it Hot Chelle Rae, however.) The highlight is “Hands Together,” a tune that mixes vibraphone, distorted bass, squalling guitar and a frantic vocal performance for a gripping tune. Other tunes draw off the power of group vocals (“Pound for Pound”) or sparse arrangements (“Hey Forever”), while maintaining a mix between serious aspirations, pop melodies and danceable moments (you know, for the kids at the live shows!).
Some will be put off by the vocals (shades of Alec Ounsworth from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah creep in), while others will not like the fact that this sits between easily categorizable idioms: there’s not really a summer jam here, but this isn’t moody thinkpiece music. It will be interesting to see if The The The Thunder continue to explore this vein, or if they move in one direction for their follow-up release. They’ve got a good start going here, so I’m interested to see where they go.
I’ve had a spate of number bands recently. I reviewed TiLT 360 the other day, I recently reviewed Black Heart Procession’s Six, and now I’ve got a double dose in reviewing The Fifth by Seven. I’m not really sure what causes people to name their band a number, but it seems to have no effect whatsoever on their music, as all of these bands are great at what they do.
Seven’s dark, danceable rock would have been lumped in with Killers, the Bravery and Interpol, had they erupted around the turn of the century. If Hot Fuss-era Killers had added a female singer and swung more toward the “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” side of than the “All These Things That I’ve Done” side, they would have become Seven. The rattling high-hat, synths, upbeat tempos and epic melodies are all there.
Vocalist Annette Gil has a low voice for a girl, and it fits the sound perfectly. Her voice draws power from the low, gritty guitars that comprise most of the backdrop of this album. It draws contrast and tension from the high synths that often juxtapose with the guitars. That give and take is what forms the basis of almost all Seven songs. And, from top to bottom, that’s a great thing.
From the stomping anthem “Dance Dance Dance” to the mid-tempo “Blackburn” to the punked-out “Sickleave,” Seven blazes through thirteen songs without ever letting the energy drop. There are guitar-driven tracks like rocker “Peace and Lovin,” so-much-synth-it-might-be-the-eighties tracks like “No Ambition” and even unexplainable tracks like “Elements,” which starts off like a spaghetti western and ends up being an oddball pop song.
This album is a must-hear for people who love synth-driven rock with a dance bent and anthemic tendencies. There’s a lot of that going around these days, but Seven’s carved out a niche and written songs that stick, even in a genre full of excellent songwriters. I
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.