Before I review the CD, let me make this disclaimer. This past May, I offered up the opportunity to have an album reviewed on the website as part of the Ultraviolet auction to benefit Cystic Fibrosis. Winning the review guaranteed an honest album review, nothing more and nothing less. The winning bid was made by Dave Hickmott of The Felons, so here is the review of their recently released CD, At Sea.
The first thing I'm going to say is that At Sea is that is quite short. Clocking in at about 36 minutes and with a mere eight songs, this feels more like a sampler than a full length album. Perhaps it is unfair to harp upon the brief nature of the album, but I cannot help my frustration. Next time guys, let's shoot for ten or twelve songs at the least.
Having gotten that complaint out of the way, let's examine the songs that are on the album. The one thing that works by having so few songs is that there are no truly weak moments on the CD. Admittedly, "Sugar and Gas" is my least favorite track, but even it gets a solid thumbs up from me. The reason I pick on "Sugar and Gas" is that it does not match the strength of the other incredible seven tracks on the CD.
The album's opening, "Cathedral", starts out slowly and hooks you in with its opening line, "This town is like a Norman Rockwell portrait/All the train stations are full/Built for the self obsessed/The would be cool". One interesting note about the album is that for as incredibly catchy as all the songs are, there is a definite darkness to most of the lyrics. Later in "Cathedral", Mr. Hickmott sings, "I'd rather be in hell without you/Than a garden where I'm dumb and out of view". Even in his happiest sounding song, "Leave Me Out" (my personal favorite off the CD), the song sets its defiantly happy tone to a darker backdrop. "Break these blades upon your wrist/Take your sword and fall on it/Martyr yourself to your stupid cause/Like you've always threatened to do/But leave me out".
One might think by the lyrics that the sound of the album itself would be dark. Truth is, it's anything but dark sounding. "All Inside" and "Leave Me Out" have a very Muse like quality to them, with a slight hint of Tripping Daisy in the sound of the guitars. Throw in the excellent production job by Brian Nesbitt, and what you have is an album by a band that sounds ready for things bigger than just Dallas. These songs sound ready to breathe fresh life into the world of alternative music, bringing back the edginess and creativity that was once rampant within the genre.
In spite of its short length, At Sea does its job of showing off the band's strength for solid catchy songs with a certain dark bite to the lyrics. It also whets the appetite for their follow up CD, which will hopefully have more than eight songs. I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself on the last comment.