I have to wonder what it must have been like to have been a music reviewer in the early ‘80s and be the first to receive an EP called Chronic Town. It must have been a sense of awesome discovery, a feeling that you’d stumbled onto something great, something that made you feel very special; knowing that you had a potential game changer in your hands, even if some of those early reviews were mixed and some critics didn’t know what to make of the record. Of course, I’m referring to R.E.M., who pretty much overhauled the American alternative rock landscape of the ‘80s before blowing up and becoming, for a time, the biggest rock band in the world. Well, now there’s another band hailing from Athens, Georgia (and there’s been a whack of them ranging from the B-52’s to the Indigo Girls to Neutral Milk Hotel), whose debut EP, Better Things, imparts that sense of something very special. In fact, I think Easter Island has the potential to get snapped up by a major label and, for better or worse, become the US answer to Coldplay. The two bands share a haunting, epic, slow-to-mid tempo rock sound. There’s an overall consistency that both groups possess, too; I’ve listened to Coldplay at friends’ houses and couldn’t really tell where one song ended and where another one began. The same goes for Better Things. You can’t really pick out the individual songs when you listen to it, and it all kind of washes over you in a blur.
This is a strong start for a new band that doesn’t always score points for originality, which, in addition to similarities with Chris Martin and crew, also sometimes actually recalls the early jangle of R.E.M. (particularly on parting track “Second Handers”). The band name, too, is not new. You see, a little research shows that there was another Easter Island, a Minneapolis band that was locally popular in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Despite being a wee bit derivative, Better Things is a well-crafted, short album with an obvious high point in the pretty piano ballad “Into Bedrooms”, which could easily pass for the best song Coldplay never wrote.