et’s just get it out of the way, shall we? This isn’t the type of record most of us who come to this site would buy, let alone give any acknowledgement of, or, heaven forbid, praise to. But for what SR-71 do, which is making tuneful, hook filled, power chord rock, this is far and away a better album than the majority of what gets played on radio and bought in stores by the truckloads.
While not trying to make any sort of statement or change the status quo, the band instead delivers one powerful, crunching rock tune after another. They realize the inherent reliability of hooks and melody and of strong verses and even stronger choruses. On the whole, the members bring a searing intensity to their instruments. Mark Beauchemin and Mitch Allan’s guitars, coupled with Jeff Reid’s bass envelop the listener as if making a sonic wall of protection on “My World”; all the while John Allen attacks on the drums as if they were on a course of destruction. Every song on this album is a potential radio hit in the best sense of the term.
Songs like “They All Fall Down”, with its unrelenting, unified assault of hammering guitar, loping bass and pounding rhythms; the great chorus in “Tomorrow” of “I’m not afraid of tomorrow / I’m only scared of myself / Feels like my insides are on fire / and I’m looking through the eyes of someone else”, touching on the fear and confusion of growing up; the lovelorn disturbance of “My World”, wherein a former lover cannot let go of his love: “Love is all around you / Your universe is full / But in my world / There is only you”; or “Hello, Hello”, with its wonderful use of texture and tone and a rousing chorus. All four songs together make a strong beginning, the likes of which most bands wished they could compose.
But, there is a fifth one that hammers home how great this band can be. “Truth” is all heavy guitar riffs, massive drumming and high-as-the-mountains caterwauling. Everything slams together in one giant explosion in the chorus. “The mouth of New York City talks / Spitting dust from streets to sidewalks / Pictures soaked in gasoline / Twisting through the steel and concrete”. These lyrics make chilling reminiscences of the loss of life in New York last year.
The band gets down with a super speed rave-up on “She Was Dead”, a mix of Rancid and Jimmy Eat World, if such a comparison can truly be made. “The Best Is Yet To Come” is a romantic’s idyllic view of changing their intended’s life for the better, while “Broken Handed” is another look at the desperations of love and belonging. Doing their best version of Green Day (or Green Day by way of Sum 41), the snot goes flying on “Lucky”, a brat’s tale of dementia and depravity, who figures that he is getting along by sheer chance.
The only nagging complaint about this album, besides a few duff tracks (“In My Mind”, “Goodbye” and the re-mix of “Non-Toxic” from the band’s debut, Now You See Inside), is the production is overblown. It swells with a sheen that gets so thick at times, as if to cause near-nausea. They would be wise to scale it back a bit, not getting completely raw, but stop mixing after about two passes. They certainly have the abilities to make some killer power pop/rock, now the only thing they need to do is back away from the control panel and cease sweetening the sound up.
Reviewed by: Brett Hickman
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01