Tuesday, April 20, 2010

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – Nickelbackian Regrets

I need to stop comparing bands to Nickelback. It’s not every bar-conquering hard rock outfit with a heart’s fault that Nickelback ruined things for everyone who wants to use a guitar for something other than offbeat ska chords or augmenting the next Justin Timberlake song. I just ask that you cut me some slack when an alternative rock sextet shows up sounding vaguely like a band I don’t like. Comparisons are inevitable. I’m trying my best to help my ear overcome them.

Into The Night is alternative/hard rock outfit from Australia. Though they’re signed to an indie label (and we all know indie means nothing nowadays), the polish of established producers, etc. can be heard in their music and seen on their slick website. I’m a little harsh on them below, mostly due to my negative feelings about a certain band Into The Night sometimes sounds like. But they’ve got some good tracks. One not on this week’s docket is “Six Degrees,” which deserves a listen just for the flamenco-styled opening.

No matter what I say from here on out, anyone with an opportunity to see them live should go and report back. They seem like a band that opens up in front of a crowd. I’d like to give them that benefit of the doubt.

The Songs

“Coming Down” is a perfect example of how a simple hook can propel a song past being innocuous and into ‘I’d sing to this on the radio’ territory. The singer repeats “So this is falling down” what must be at least forty times, enough so that I could easily sing along halfway through. And it’s the type of song that needs that hook to survive. Otherwise, it’d get lost on any hard rock station playing hits of the early Aughts. The guitars sling riffs that predate grunge, but they stay out of the way of the pop-conditioned vocals. Think Three Doors Down but heavier. Thankfully, the rhythm section mixes things up often enough that I have no way of knowing if the ride was repetitive – though I suspect it may have been. A steady supply of paints shakes things up a bit, as well, though I found it disappointingly easy to grab the a worthless color moments after snagging a red. C’est la vie and all that, I suppose. One final thought: is he really just saying “Marry me” at the end? I’d hate to think this was a wedding proposal in disguise.

I struggle to place Into The Night properly underneath the vast umbrella that is modern rock music. I thought I had them pinned down after “Coming Down,” which reminds me of the early days of Creed and Nickelback – you know, before they got super successful and bad. “The Game” actually pushes them more towards pop. The vocals are melodious. The music is hard-nosed pop-punk. I don’t quite know what to make of it. Again, the ride failed to stick with me, as the enigma that is their sound distracted me from the game of it all. I did spend some time listening to his lyrics about cheater’s remorse and trying to move on. It all seems rather messy.

“Tickle Me” sounds nothing like how I think a song called “Tickle Me” should sound. What, to me anyways, should be a light-hearted romp is actually an earnest power ballad that culminates with the repetition of “I love you, girl!” (I wasn’t aware that subtlety had gone the way of Geocities.) As Into The Night reshuffles their sound with each track, more bands float to mind from the turn-of-the-millennium ether. Live, early Goo Goo Dolls, Staind. When the vocalist – whom I’ve discovered goes by the name Trick, according to the band’s various websites – when Trick allows himself access to his higher register, he keeps the sound fresh and unique. When he slums around in his baritone basement, whatever natural singing twang he has transports him instantly to Nickelback Land. A brief piano interlude toward the end stands out given the overall sameness of the other offerings. It may not be my favorite this week, but you should play this song in order to witness the full spectrum of Into The Night’s sound.

This week wraps up with the carpe diem message of “Your Day.” Trick sings a bit more in the verses, coming off a bit like Eddie Vedder or the dude from Live – not bad company at all. He’s found a way to make his lower register more interesting, and I think it helps that the band’s doing their most intricate work behind him. Moody chords sound note by note, not just marching in block fashion. The drums roll a bit more, scattering the beat away from a simple one-two-three-four. The choruses, of course, sound a lot like their other radio-friendly alt rock tracks: chunky chords, scratchy sustained melody lines. I wish they’d found a way to further explore the richer sound of the verses. However, the track is ten times more interesting during choruses due to the abundance of traffic. My recommendation for tackling this song: enjoy the verses, defeat the choruses.

Author’s Note

All songs were played on the Pro difficulty at least twice using the Eraser and Vegas characters. No major debates or quarrels on the boards this week. Users seemed pretty content with the selection; I don’t think I saw any instances of “Cool story, bro.” Unfortunately, by merely looking at the playlist, a number of people lost the Game. I apologize to all of you who I’ve just caused to lose as well. If it makes you feel any better, Adler and Ross were making theatergoers lose decades ago.