Simple Minds and Bad Times
In 1962, Ray Charles decided he wanted to release a country/folk album. He was laughed at. As legend has it, even his close friends begged and pleaded with him to not take such a chance. Considering that at that particular time, Charles had gained a great deal of notoriety and success by making brilliant music rooted in rhythm and blues, his decision was perceived by some as career-threatening.
So when Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music reached #1 on the Billboard charts and #104 on the Rolling Stone list of greatest albums ever, no one really saw it coming. And then when it spawned a trend of artists successfully crossing over into worlds they would have never thought of, it became apparent that Mr. Charles’ folk-happy idea might have held a bit more credence than anyone could have expected.
In short, Modern Sounds is one of the greatest and most important albums ever. Really. Ever.
So what the hell does this have to do with five pedigreed kids from Boston that attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music? Well, nothing really. But that’s not what the Click Five would like you to believe with their latest release, Modern Minds and Pastimes. You see, Pastimes was named after Charles’ 1962 classic. And the problem with garnering influence from such a sacred album is precisely the problem that runs rampant throughout the Click Five’s most recent disaster: insincerity. Songs like “When I’m Gone” and “The Reason Why” simply feel incredibly disingenuous. New lead singer Kyle Patrick’s predictable voice never seems to present any of his new band’s words with any type of consequential emotion or believability. And while “Gone” is a flat-out lame attempt at “rocking”, “Why” is nothing more than another manufactured boy-right-out-of-his-teens kind of likes girl-probably-still-in-her-teens enough to claim he is in love tune. And none of it seems honest.
“Jenny”, the album’s first single, is a blatantly obvious attempt at recreating the type of wannabe-quirky summertime pop that the band’s one hit, “Just a Girl”, capitalized on in 2005. The only differences between the former and the latter are roughly 24 months, a slightly deeper voice and riddance of those insidious suits the band became synonymous with when they suddenly became your little sister’s new favorite act two years ago.
It becomes clear that the group is at it’s best when it stays away from trying to be something it isn’t—a rock and roll band. Only when they realize that they are a pop-rock band do they shine. Pastimes’ first track, “Flipside”, certainly suggests promises the band never lives up to. The opening “Do-Do-Do’s” are reminiscent of Brian Wilson’s boys, and the song as a whole is more pleasant than anything else the album has to offer. And while it still may not feel sincere, the chorus is assured to be stuck in your head for days to follow.
Even “Happy Birthday” and “Empty” are okay. While the former’s simplicity would normally suggest watered-down cheese at first glance, a second look finds that the song’s endearing qualities override anything else, making the track somewhat cute. “Empty”, while being heartbroken and expected, is atmospheric and, really, kind of interesting. Instead of just resting on a voice and an acoustic guitar, the song at least tries to become something the band will never be. And that try, of course, is better than nothing.
But songs like “Addicted to Me” and “All I Need Is You” completely negate any good feeling Pastimes could give. “Addicted to Me” is such a bad attempt at new wave that it becomes impossible to listen to. And what makes it worse is that everyone knows exactly what they are trying to do and exactly how far they are from achieving it. “All I Need Is You” is another lovelorn tale and Pastimes’s pinnacle of predictability and insincerity.
Ultimately that’s the problem. Going to Berklee, one would think that the Click Fivers were taught about the importance of sincerity and attachment in music. Not only that, but garnering influence from one of the most honest and believable artists to ever grace musical composition for a title, one would think that these boys from Boston would have paid a little more attention to what matters most. And while Charles got to eventually have the last laugh by making his Modern Sounds one of the greatest albums ever, its hard to imagine the Click Five’s Modern Minds ever laughing at all.