Denver Harbor’s first major label release is pretty to look at. There are old cars, chains, more old cars, a big city skyline, a mannequin, animals, eyeballs and cheerleaders. Oh, and then on the inside of the liner notes we have a decapitated gorilla who is upset at something (his decapitation?), naked men, a television and cop cars. It’s perhaps a bad omen of what’s to come on this album - the disjointed, unfocused music of a band who isn’t trying to appeal to one audience, but to every bloody suit whose lapels they can possibly grab. The leadoff track, “Xenophobia”, starts off promising, but the airtight arrangement makes them resemble Jimmy Eat World if that band had no originality or good ideas between them. It’s like an emaciated Billy Talent—loud and somewhat punishing but consisting of no substance or punch. From there they go into a bridge that Sum 41 were performing when they were still happy to jump on cue, wear shorts and shoot water pistols around their suburban Toronto stomping grounds. Lead singer Will Salazar tries to muster up intensity, but it’s nothing you haven’t heard done better before.
Maybe they’re in on the joke? Perhaps, if you look at the opening couplet and then the next three lines of “Picture Perfect Wannabe” which opens with, “Don’t waste time searching for the perfect rhyme / Steal another melody from your favorite band”. The sugarcoated chorus isn’t that awful, but the lyrics say far more than Denver Harbor wanted them too, I would imagine. The drum work by Ilan Rubin is the highlight of the song. Having gotten that power punk out of their system, Denver Harbor then try to do something different on “Outta My Head”. It opens like The Police and then tries to push itself off as The Offspring, failing miserably in both respects. They sing “I’m never gonna get you outta my head”, for the chorus, but trust me, you’ll forget this line by the time they start to fade out. “Satisfied” is the first song that won’t have you cringing, as they do a decent bit of emo-ish rock courtesy of guitarists Chris Lewis and Salazar.
As with every other band trying to make the grade, Denver Harbor slows things down around this time, with a mellow campfire ballad called “All I Want”. The song is over-produced, and the heart of the song would be best kept to an “unplugged” version instead of the droning guitar during the bridge. Building on this with electric guitars doesn’t work either, resulting in it being a bad attempt at Good Charlotte. Another aspect that makes the album so unfocused is the brief 40 second to one minute interludes between some of the tunes that don’t complement anything in the subsequent song. “Move On” has some fleeting moments of hope but they go down the proverbial drain two minutes in. Trying to atone for the change in direction, the rest of the tune doesn’t quite get it over the bar. There are some good points on the album, including “Way Back Home” which is a mellow and moody, swaying affair that hits all the right notes. Think of it as a power ballad for the new millennium.
Denver Harbor is simply too clichéd, though, as “Twenty Six” resembles something Collective Soul did when I was still trying buying that group’s cassettes. It’s less than two minutes long and is actually another insipid intro into something else that should be skipped over, “Twenty Seven” (did you spot it? It comes after “Twenty Six”, such wit!). Another brief shining moment comes in “My Holiday (Save Me)” which is tight, and contains a much-needed hook. Overall Denver Harbor is trying to be everything to everyone. If they continue down this boulevard, they will mean very little to even fewer.
// Notes from the Road
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