It’s hard to gauge just what Billionaire is trying to be on Ascension: Erstwhile rockers? Balladeers with a sense for the harsh? Alterna-pop radio mongers? Whatever the answer, the overall result, judging from Ascension, is not satisfying enough to spend much time deliberating over.
But after a listen, the question still hangs. How can a band deliver hard-rocking numbers like “‘Til You’re High” and “Never Get Enough” with the ferocity of folks like Jane’s Addiction or Filter, and then dabble in acoustic balladry like “Someday I’ll Leave It All” or “Someone?” Sure, rock bands are often try to make a name for themselves with a ballad, only to turn around the formula and prove to everyone that fell for the ballad trick that they’re actually a full out rock outfit. It’s an age-old scheme. But rarely does an album from a band that looks and sounds so “rock-worthy” overdo the acoustic side. How does a song like “I Fell From Space” fit on the same platter as the Cat Stevens-y “Never Going Back?” It’s all quite a mess.
Which is kind of a shame since, for all the incohesiveness of Ascension, a few of the songs, namely “Someday I’ll Leave It All” and “‘Til You’re High,” are actually quite good. Perhaps when Billionaire figures out what they’re actually trying to accomplish with their tunes, this will matter and they’ll ascend somewhere after all.