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The Old Ceremony

Walk on Thin Air

(Alyosha; US: 10 Feb 2009; UK: Available as import)

Django Haskins, frontman for the Old Ceremony, has an effortless delivery when he sings. His catchy voice delivers melodies that are catchy and conversational. They never sound forced, and instead settle into the band’s full pop-rock sound. A few times on Walk on Thin Air, particularly on the power pop of “Until My Voice is Gone” and the string-laden rock of “Same Difference”, these admittedly straightforward sounds make something compelling. They may not sound terribly original with their mid-tempo alt-rock, but that is beside the point when they execute their songs well.


Trouble is, they don’t execute them well that often on this album. With Haskins knack for melody and the band’s sturdy rock sound, this should be much better than it is. The main problem is Haskins’ inability to break from the role of charming lead singer. He croons on these songs, and he does have a good voice, but its got a bravado to it that he never lets go. This becomes problematic when he tries to be confessional, which he does often on the record. Tales of solitude, like “By Any Other Name” ring false. Songs of dissolving relationships rest on trite and melodramatic images, like on “Plate Tectonics”, making his sentiments sound less heartfelt. And when he tries self-deprecation on “Stubborn Man”, he still sound proud and when refers to someone as “baby” it comes off as condescending. The fact is that Walk on Thin Air stumbles like this a lot. It goes for emotions Haskins seems unwilling to really delve into. He’s playing the role of sensitive songwriter on a lot of these, and that just isn’t enough to make this kind of middle-of-the-road rock stand out.

Rating:

Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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