When Alive to Every Smile
first beat its way through my speakers with "Under Lock and Key", I was like 'Oh yes, this album is gonna rock like Dio at the Garden in 82!'. And that song really does rock. Well, about as rockin' as Wratten gets anyway.
It's not like Sabbath or anything, but "Under Lock and Key" is probably the band's single most dissonant moment. And it's a good song about Wratten hating himself because he made his girlfriend cry. You've gotta stop fucking her up
are the first words uttered on the album, so yeah (I think that's only time he's dropped an f-bomb on record) - he narrates Do yourself a favor: start thinking of her
to himself over a noisy cascade of heavy cymbals and tom-toms, with a mumbling, menacing bassline. Good stuff.
From there, it's into "With Every Story", the first song where the Stars start to sound like The Cure. It's interesting because Wratten has always played guitar like The Cure's Robert Smith, except not on a 6-string bass. And that song is where that started. But with Beth's background vocals and Wratten's deadpan delivery, it never feels like the Stars are ripping off The Cure - they're just similar, that's all.
Most of the album deals with the complexities of a heavy relationship, but it's always with an optimistic slant. And the production is more diverse than the last album ... "Until the Dream Gets Broken" is a good example of both - a pretty harpsichord-laden duet between Wratten and Beth about appreciating love in the moment. And "Maybe After All" is a fantastic song that any couple who've experienced misunderstandings should hear.
More diverse and not so one-dimensional lyrically, Alive to Every Smile
is a good transition effort from the band. But, as much as there is here for fans to latch onto, it's another Trembling Blue Stars album that wouldn't make a good first impression.Rated:
by Reviewer: Austin
(blogging at Austin's Page