Artist: Look Alive
Released: 21st October 2014
It's easy to be disparaging of a genre that many would say has had its day. Disregarding punk rock (or pop-punk, or pop-rock or any of these similar, line-blurring genres) as simply “not quite old enough to be retro” is a little short sighted in my opinion. That said, I'm afraid Look Alive's new EP Translucent doesn't entirely help my argument.
Translucent is a confident and reasonably competent EP that has its feet firmly in the common ground between Jimmy Eat World, Rise Against and even H2O. Some noteworthy drum work and well placed melodic basslines form a backdrop for vocals that I suspect will divide opinion somewhat. It's raw and occasionally a little messy, but I respect the decision to keep this EP sounding almost live. So often rock bands fall into the bad habit of having their work overproduced, resulting in the soul of the music getting removed along with the reality of what five guys with guitars and a drum kit actually sound like. For the 14 minutes that this EP plays out I was reminded of why I love no-nonsense, balls-to-the-wall guitar bands. Tearing through your songs with no pretence or ambient between-track messing about is something that adds a sense of direction, and it's something that Look Alive do admirably.
However, from the moment opening track Putting The “I” In Isolation started, I was pretty confident what kind of listen I was in for. As opening tracks go, this one is frankly a little disposable, with forgettable verses and a chorus that doesn't quite land. There is such a limited amount of time to capture the imagination with an EP that you can't afford to open with what is essentially a fairly decent album track.
Unfortunately that is a theme that works its way into the rest of the EP, although Regrets Taste A Lot Like Hard Liquor does add a certain unexpected depth to the overall experience. Its slower tempo and channelling of Motion City Soundtrack in the verses (and even a touch of Death Cab For Cutie) certainly adds a dimension. It manages to stay just the right side of heartfelt rock, though only just.
The Bad Conversationalist, perhaps the most biting track of the four, and (not coincidently) my favourite, finishes the EP. It is arguably the most direct and musically interesting track on here, although its rather abrupt ending leaves the whole EP feeling somehow incomplete and its musical direction not fully realised.
I can fully imagine that Look Alive would make quite an impression on stage, and whilst this EP isn't their strongest musical output (check out their earlier track Inquisition) there is plenty to work with. Look Alive do what they do and they don't pretend to be what they are not. If you are a fan of New Found Glory, Small Brown Bike or Rise Against then Translucent is worth a listen, but don't expect fireworks. I can't deny that the more I listen to Translucent the more I like it, but maybe I'm just getting used to it.