[10 March 2014]
The Strokes have done many great things; “Reptilia”, “You Only Live Once”, Julian Casablancas’ sunglasses style, but they’ve also started a few more suspect things. In the years following Is this it a flood of bands imitating the cool New York garage rock groove that the Strokes brought back became overwhelming. Some of them great, some of them not so much (The Vines anyone?). Over a decade since Is this it’s release California based Warm Soda have come out with a deeply Strokes indebted release Young Reckless Hearts which most definitely lands in the latter category. Warm Soda started their career out promisingly enough. The title track off their 2013 album Someone for You was a delightfully lo-fi song that landed somewhere between garage rock and power pop. The rest of that project wasn’t as strong but still stood as a solid debut. So the question stands, how is this sophomore slump so bad?
Production is a large part of the problem. Warm Soda reveled in the lo-fi sonics of their first album. Things are clearer on Young Reckless Hearts and the clarity reveals some not-so-flattering qualities. Frontman Matthew Melton causes a fair share of the problems on the album. His lackluster lyrics that were once hidden behind fuzz are now front and center, and they are groan worthy. “Your temptation really ain’t that bad/No sensation like ya ever had,” he croons on the title track. On top of that Melton’s voice comes off as overbearing on a good portion of these tracks. Melton sounded more mature on Someone for You and seems to have devolved between releases. Opening track “Going in Circles” has a sexy guitar riff to start off the song but Melton swoops in with a cringe inducing warble. The backing vocals on that track also become annoyingly cheesy. Warm Soda seems very fond of placing airy vocal lines in the choruses of their songs, making border line subpar songs completely go off the edge. “Going in Circles” isn’t the only example. The title track is the worst offender with the album’s campiest vocals, which is impressive in a sad way. “When Your Eyes Meet Mine” and “Smoke gets in Your Eyes” suffer from the same problem.
The instrumentation never lands in sugary territory like the vocals but lacks anything interesting. The chugging background of “Forbidden Emotion” plods along and most of the guitar licks here are paint-by-numbers levels of predictable, particularly on “Smoke gets in Your Eyes” and the title track. It’s a damn shame as “Postcards” shows off some sharp guitar work from Joey Genovese. The rhythm section is burdened by the same problems. Ricky Hamilton is never able to break out of unoriginal 4/4 beats and despite some solid playing bassist Billy Trujillo is often drowned out by the rest of the band.
If there’s anything worth salvaging here it’s the closing track “Stranger to Me”, which allows Warm Soda to show off some muscle. Trujillo’s bass is solid throughout the album, but his playing here really shines and this track is Genovese’s brightest moment. Still, one song is not enough to save the entire album. Young Reckless Hearts ends up being an utterly insipid release short on ideas and long on annoying campiness.