Take one look at the group photo on the back of their new CD, and you’d instantly think that New York band White Light Motorcade are part of the next crop of new garage, Strokes wannabes. But underneath all the denim, leather, and snarky facial expressions, is an album that actually sounds a long way off from The Strokes’ Velvet-Underground-goes-new wave style. More pop than garage, more Oasis than the MC5, this band shows they’re more than capable of breaking through to the North American guitar rock market that’s dominated by the likes of Nickelback, Three Doors Down, and Good Charlotte. But in White Light Motorcade’s case, they can actually carry a tune, and they’re fully aware of the value of a good pop hook in a loud rock song. The only problem with their debut album, though, is their inability to hold your interest for 45 minutes.
Not that Thank You, Goodnight! doesn’t do everything it can to impress the listener. It’s a well-produced, well-played album, with several very good examples of quality mainstream pop rock, but half of the album’s 12 tracks just bring things to a grinding halt. Simply put, we’ve heard all this before.
Its good songs do manage to grab you attention. “Open Your Eyes” opens with a very Britpop combination of synth and guitar harmonies, before bursting into a Primal Scream-style verse, with singer/guitarist Harley Dinardo effecting a fine hard rock sneer. “It’s Happening” uses the combination of pop and post-grunge that The Vines have so successfully manufactured, but in direct contrast to Craig Nicholls’ pot-fueled screaming nonsense, we’re actually treated to a melodic chorus that delivers a good payoff following the churning verses. On the other side of the coin, “All Gone Again” is shamelessly emo, combining roaring guitars, sensitive-guy lyrics, and sweeping vocal harmonies that sound just as good as anything the Jimmy Eat Worlds and Dashboard Confessionals of this world have done before. “My Way” is straightforward Cheap Trick pop rock, with those old reliable tools of the trade, the hand-clap and plenty of “oh yeah”‘s. “Semi-Precious” turns up the guitars, much in the style of Oasis and Muse, with a great chorus that’s reminiscent of noted Canadian pop-punkers Treble Charger. And “Dream Day” is a cool blend of the Stone Roses’ early ballads and a melody you can practically hear Liam Gallagher singing, complete with goofy Noel Gallagher-ish lyrics (“Time is a friend of mine / She’s an ocean”).
The rest of Thank You, Goodnight!, though, gets stale, smothered by predictability and cheesy sentimentality. “Closest” has all the depth of an Avril Lavigne song, while the cornball “We Come Together” is a perfect imitation of Oasis at their worst, from Dinardo’s vocal style, to the by-the-numbers guitar work by Dinardo and guitarist Mark Lewis. Both “I Could Kick Myself” and “On Top” are tepid, boring attempts to rock out, and the ballad “Useless”, is sadly self-descriptive. After such a promising start, the album totally runs out of gas, and quickly putters out.
The album, produced by Brad Jones (whose resume includes such bands as Cotton Mather and Imperial Drag), sounds great. It’s not overproduced like albums by so many of today’s corporate rock acts, maintaining a strong sound that’s evident on the album’s better harder songs. Still, White Light Motorcade’s weaker moments are too obvious to ignore, and wind up becoming too much of a distraction.
However, there is some real potential here. Unlike nearly every North American band you hear on modern rock radio, underneath the aggressive guitars, there is a real pop sense that dominates White Light Motorcade’s music. Like Northern Ireland’s excellent Ash, they’re not ashamed to bask in some extremely catchy melodies, and if given the chance, they can work towards the great powerpop album that they’re so obviously capable of. Though half of Thank You, Goodnight! would be a welcome change from mainstream hack Chad Kroeger’s inexplicable dominance of modern rock radio, the rest of it shows us that they still have some work to do. There’s a really good album in these guys, but this one isn’t it.
// Notes from the Road
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