Whether they like it or not, UK-based I Was a Cub Scout will be endlessly compared to the Postal Service. Besides the fact that both acts are duos, their music is a catchy, sometimes breathtaking combination of pop and electronica. Like Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello of the Postal Service, these two Cub Scouts—Todd Marriott and William Bowerman—flaunt their emotions over drum machines and mellow synths and guitar. But the biggest disparity between these similar duos is the age difference and experience. While Jimmy and Ben were hitting strides with their respective projects, Dntel and Death Cab for Cutie, these two Britons were barely old enough to drive. But, surprisingly, their being green doesn’t stick out like one would expect. Instead, in a way, it gives the songs on I Want You to Know That There is Always Hope more validity. Rather than these being lovelorn 30-somethings, Marriott and Bowerman are young men struggling with very real and most likely new issues. And just for clarity’s sake, the age reference wasn’t a knock at Death Cab and their sensitive frontman. I happen to enjoy them very much.
I Want You… is one of those records you throw on when the storm clouds have hit, but you can still see the sun in the distance. Marriott’s longing lyrics over the sometimes uplifting synths and guitar embody the feeling of hope during the worst of it. Think Snow Patrol’s last album, Eyes Open, and how the band grew to a more grandiose, optimistic sound. The perfect example is “The Hunter’s Daughter”, a driving anthem telling the tale of two lovers on the verge of a make-up or break-up. Similarly, “Save Your Wishes”, which is a phenomenal opening track, has Marriott pledging to always be there. By the chorus, though, he’s changed his tune: “Save your wishes / Cause they won’t help you / And keep your kisses / Cause they’re unwanted.”
Another highlight is “Echoes”. You can hear this track ringing throughout concert halls and clubs with its huge chorus backed by those sweeping ‘oh-ho-oh-ho’s. And the drum breakdown toward the end makes the song that much more epic. “Lucean” comes off like a Death Cab track, mostly due to Marriott’s piano work. The melody he tickles on the keys just sticks in your brain. Perhaps the biggest song, however, is lead single “Pink Squares”. It’s danceable, slightly melancholic, and ready for anyone willing to sing-along.
The album loses its pace when it begins to blend together. Some songs fade in and out with little notice. Although that can make for a cohesive listen, it can also cause you to lose interest. Case in point, “P’s & Q’s” starts out promising something different with warm synths creating little more than ambient echoes. It doesn’t take long, however, for the guys to meander back into their tried-and-true sound. Besides the musical familiarities, Marriott’s vocals also lack variety. Unlike Gibbard, who can switch between talking and belting out his lyrics, Marriott hasn’t quite reached that plateau. Although he tries his damnedest to reach another level on “Our Smallest Adventures”, his voice is not at stadium-status yet.
The most discouraging part about this record, however, is that the duo is no more. The guys announced their split via MySpace in June, though they made sure to finish their touring commitments. While it will be interesting to see how they evolve in new projects, it’s a shame they gave up so quickly on I Was a Cub Scout. Even though I Want You… has its flaws, it’s still a damn fine effort worthy of a listen.
- Multiple songs MySpace