The Juliana Theory: Love

[13 March 2003]

By Daniel Mitchell

To be frank, the Juliana Theory has managed to do properly what many recent bands have tried to do lately: make the transition from “emo” band to viable hard rock/pop band. Countless casualties, including the Get Up Kids, Promise Ring, and Saves the Day have attempted similar feats, with ghastly results. This is not the case with the Juliana Theory, as Love showcases a band that is at the top of their game, both in performance/ delivery and song writing.

The band’s musical loves shine through on Love, more so here than on any of their previous releases. On “Do you Believe Me,” the band’s penchant for early U2 comes through, from the digitally delayed guitar lines to the “ohhh’s” in the background of the chorus. The opening guitar line on “Trance” is really cool, but I think I’d be ashamed for ripping off the Edge so gratuitously if I were the player of that riff. The band, however, rips into an enormous stomper of a song after said melody, with tremendous drums and grainy guitars. It is, indeed, the huge guitars that keep these songs interesting, for whatever name you call them, they still have roots in “punk rock,” and still know how to rock out.

I found a personal connection with the harder tracks on Love, as it resembles more closely their wonderful albums that they did for the independent Christian punk label, Tooth & Nail. “DTM” is vintage Juliana Theory, with a swagger of drums and guitars that create head bobbing and a mild body sway upon listening. The band’s guitarists really take occasion here to let the listener know that they can still rock with the best of them; this is also one of the only songs on which lead singer Brett Detar’s voices is actually tolerable. He sounds sullen and obnoxious at the same time, and he really puts the icing on the cake of a truly masterful piece of song writing.

For the most part, though, the only weak area of the band is Detar’s nasal, overtly whiney voice. His voice is actually quite impressive on the album’s harder tracks, but it’s the slower ones on which he chooses to strike some sort of rock star posture. His vocal style on “Shell of a Man” is unforgivable, as he over enunciates nearly every syllable in a train wreck of an attempt to sound like the lead singer of Matchbox 20. Case in point #2 would be the silly and over dramatic “The Hardest Things”, on which Detar takes his posturing quite seriously, and ends up sounding (I swear to God) like Daniel Johns of Silverchair. The most damning evidence of Detar’s vomit-inducing desire to be the next Elton John is “Everything”. Detar’s crooning here is enough to make the ears lay back on all cats within 100 miles of this CD.

There are times, though, when his act really works. “Jewel to Sparkle” is an incredible rock song, in the vein of Toad the Wet Sprocket and Gin Blossoms, and this song needs to be given a chance at some radio airplay. With the right promotion, this could be a really successful song. It’s one of those songs, like the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”, that just strikes you, creating an instant bond with the listener. It’s the best thing the Juliana Theory has ever come up with, and it needs to be heard.

Make no mistake: regardless of my opinion of Detar’s voice, this is a truly great CD. It is a pleasure to see a band make the conversion from indie rock favorites to truly great and poised rock band. If these guys keep creating albums like Love, it may be U2 that copies the Juliana Theory ten years from now.

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