Thursday, December 9, 2010

Breaking 1,000 Reviews - Nothing Twisted Here!

The Good: One or two decent sounding songs, Some lyrics
The Bad: Very average pop music, Most tracks are not distinctive
The Basics: Solidly mediocre, Twisted illustrates the weaknesses of an indistinct one-hit wonder band.

[Back when I used to write for the website I wrote for, I was one of the most prolific reviewers on the site. Every now and then, I would toot my own horn to let people know that I had hit a milestone of some significance. Few of those will actually transfer over to my new blog, but this one did. With this posting, I have posted 1,000 reviews. So, to commemorate the moment, I thought I would transfer my 1,000th posting from the old site to commemorate the event. As such, I am leaving the original mostly intact with my reflections from hitting the milestone the first time, along with the promise that there is much more to come! Thanks for reading! – W.L.]

As I hit my one thousandth review (yea reviewing all of those episodes of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation!), I wanted to pause and look over my body of work here and comment on the general concept of picking up a reviewer one starts to respect. There are certainly reviews that I go back and look at and scratch my head wondering why I rating a work so high or so low or recommended something that I know I would not recommend now. And, as reviewers, we often ought to live or die by some such mistakes where we make a decision on what we are reviewing based on the here and now. This review is written by W.L. Swarts 2007, not the 2003 model. But overall, it behooves one to look at the body of reviews and decide whether or not the reviewer is generally fair or reasonably opinionated. My brother, for example, would make a horrible food reviewer, as he seems to like whatever is immediately before him. Similarly, I have a friend who I cannot ask about movies as her first reaction is always to say a movie is "okay." I've yet to talk with her about a movie that has inspired a firm, declarative position at any sort of extreme. Nothing is fantastic, nothing is terrible, it's all just "okay." Probed for details, she'll admit a movie isn't all that good - usually when I've watched a movie she's billed as "okay" and I'm appalled by how bad it is.

So, at my 1,000th review, I'll happily declare that I am mostly on target, with most of my reviews being in the “average” (6.5 – 4) range. Because I had so many reviews I was eager to transfer for things that excited me, the upper ranges are a little heavy and the perfect 10s outweigh the abysmal 0s 101 to 6. Expect a lot more panning to be transferred as we go forth! I mention this because I wanted to see (for myself) how close to a bell curve my ratings came when I wasn't being attentive to such things. My argument that I am generally a fair reviewer is that the reviews almost fit a bell curve. Which it ought to. Assuming the majority of experiences will be average, one's reviews should generally conform to a bell curve over time. My curve (and I imagine most reviewers who are not self-loathing) bends toward the high end because I naturally avoid things I am predisposed against (no inane rap album reviews here!). So, if that helps you to decide to trust me just a little bit more, thanks for that.

That brings us to Twisted, Del Amitri's most successful album in the United States which forces me to ask the question, is it possible to be derivative of a more successful artist/group despite the pesky fact that your work precedes theirs? I ask this question because I'm a fan of Matchbox Twenty and when I sat down to listen to Twisted, I was struck by how similar Del Amitri sounds to Matchbox Twenty.

Del Amitri is like Matchbox Twenty without the poetry of Rob Thomas. And the songs don't rock quite as much as Matchbox Twenty, but the album is not the pop sensation one might expect given the success of the group's major single, "Roll To Me." "Roll To Me," one might recall, had a very distinct pop flavor with upbeat guitars and a somewhat witless, easygoing feel to it. One of the most perceptive observations made by Family Guy in season four was that "Roll To Me" is used overly-frequently (and with little regard for how appropriate it might be) in movie trailers.

Twisted is a twelve-track album that showcases the writing talents of Justin Currie and Ian Harvie with vocals by those two and David Cummings and Andy Alston (according to the liner notes). The lead vocals, mostly by Currie, are fairly straightforward baritone. There is nothing exceptional about Currie's voice and, in fact, that lack of distinction makes it odd to hear now. On "Never Enough," his voice sounds like Rob Thomas. Currie sings, but there is nothing that hooks the listener with his voice, nothing that would make his voice recognizable (whereas, someone like Art Alexakis of Everclear has a distinct, instantly recognizable voice).

The lyrics on Twisted are nothing to shout about. While writers Currie and Harvie have a higher level of diction than most writing pop-rock songs, they seem hesitant to use it frequently. So, on "Start With Me," they have the well-worded, "With all the bad debts and misery / With all the dirty tricks and hypocrites you cheat on me. / Well I don't want it but it's all that I can see. / With all the discrete obscenities / With all the money freaks and doublespeak you turn away." It's poetic, it's well-written, it's the exception to the rule on Twisted. Instead, most of the songs have the lyrical prowess of their hit, "Roll To Me" with the simplicity of "Look around your world pretty baby / Is it everything you hoped it'd be / The wrong guy, the wrong situation / The right time to roll to me."

The musical accompaniment to the weak lyrics and indistinct vocals are unremarkable. There is not a single tune that stands out on Twisted with a recognizable melody. Were it not from the simple repetition from overplay on the radio, even "Roll To Me" would not stand out on this album. This is a very standard pop-rock guitar, bass, keyboards and drum ensemble. They do nothing distinctive and most of the songs are slower tempo, giving the album a somewhat schmaltzy feeling overall. The feel is of a band eager to tug the listener's heart, but it falls flat on the lyrical front without anything emotionally resonating.

I'm not sure who would like Twisted, but as I'm sure there are compilation albums that include "Roll To Me," I feel quite safe saying that those who like their trademark single are likely to find something better than Twisted that has that song on it. Fans of Matchbox Twenty, I believe, will not enjoy Twisted, as it sounds somewhat similar without the lyrical quality or musical range of the superior band.

The best song might well be the melancholy "It's Never Too Late To Be Alone," I was least grabbed by the unimpressive "Tell Her This."

For other works by bands, please check out my reviews of:
Tear The World Down – We Are The Fallen
Actually – Pet Shop Boys
Optiate - Tool


For other music reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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