Why can't they all sound like those two?
If you’ve been keeping up with most of my reviews the past few weeks, then you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been moved by too many of the new releases I’ve been covering. Well, that’s how it works in this biz. Sometimes you get a pile of discs that leaves you all smiles, and other times you get a number of things that merely leave you indifferent or at best frustrated. So I have definitely been working through the latter part of that statement as of late. I am happy to report that the all smiles side of the scale has been tipped heavily in the coming weeks, so you won’t hear too much grumbling coming from yours truly. Miracles never cease!
So this go around it’s time to bring you my report on the Signalmen and their latest disc Falsetto Teeth. I wish I had good news for these guys, but I’m afraid it’s not going to be pretty in the end. Unfortunately, this disc has fallen into the same pile that quite a few of these albums I’ve reviewed as of late have been dumped into. That is the pile that features album with two really good songs, and a whole lot of filler sprinkled throughout the rest. So it is once again with Falsetto Teeth.
The two good songs in question come right at the beginning of the disc. The opening “Believe” and the following track “Hold Me Down” pretty much show off the best of the Signalmen. “Believe” has a rather whimsically obnoxious guitar riff that gets stuck in your head no matter if you want it there or not. Guitarist and vocalist Steve Burton sings in a kind of shaky, nerdy way that works as the perfect complement to the somewhat jagged riffs and rhythms to this song, but later on his voice will become part of the band’s problems. “Hold Me Down” features second guitarist and lead vocalist Mike Brosco taking over the helm. His voice is a bit more accessible, featuring a warmer tone and a groggier sense of execution. “I’m the one next to you who’s overexposed” sings Brosco as the chorus kicks in with a grouping of voices that instantly reminds one of The Alan Parsons Project.
And with that one-two kickoff, it would seem that the Signalmen have an interesting sound, one worth exploring further to see where the musical ideas will lead. But from track three (“Freedom”) on out, Falsetto Teeth manages to do nothing more but place the listener into a thoroughly bored state of mind. Burton and Brosco continue their swapping of lead vocals throughout the songs, but Burton appears to get gradually worse as the disc goes along. I don’t know if his style is his gimmick, but if it is, Burton needs to do something quick about his adenoidal vocalizing. “Freedom” crumbles fast underneath the frailty of Steve’s voice, and “Ringing” doesn’t help matters much as this time the singing is coupled with some annoying two note guitar riffs.
And therein lies the Signalmen’s second problem. All too often they rely on the same guitar riff patterns. “Clip My Wings” could be great if the sparse lyrics didn’t repeat one too many times and the guitar refrain that went along with the words wasn’t equally grating. But even if the band weren’t dogged by this problem, they’d still face the task of shortening their tracks so it didn’t feel like the songs were going on for days. Both “Capture The Moon” and “Little Fish” seem like epics even though they both clock in at under six minutes apiece. It’s just that the music isn’t that captivating to sustain the listener’s interest for even that much time, causing the tunes to drag on at a snail’s pace.
If you want to hear a really good Signalmen single, then by all means give Falsetto Teeth a spin. I tested this disco out on my friends as well, and even they conceded that “Believe” and “Hold Me Down” were really good songs, while the rest of the album didn’t manage to even come close. This is the band’s second album. I’m not sure if their debut was any better than Falsetto Teeth, but here’s hoping that the next one is. The Signalmen have potential; they just need to work on their songs a bit more.