[27 April 2004]
Lostprophets are within the bastion of nü-metal or Americanized hard rock. When you’re Welsh, outsiders immediately think of the Manic Street Preachers or Stereophonics. So, it’s a bit difficult to wrap one’s mind around the fact that this group from South Wales is on the cusp of groups like Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, and Incubus. It certainly causes a Spockian eyebrow to be raised at worst. But, when you get into the album’s first tune, “We Still Kill the Old Way”, the slick and studio perfected ways of the aforementioned bands is exactly what Lostprophets are hedging their bets on for success. The slight singing-meets-wailing style of front man Ian Watkins is complemented by a flurry of rambunctious guitar riffs thanks to guitarists Lee Gaze and Mike Lewis. Trespassing into nü-metal, emo punk, and radio-friendly hard rock, it’s as if they’re covering their arses to see what sticks. It works in parts, but the Crazy Town melody in the bridge makes the listener want to look at the liner notes, yawn, or both.
“To Hell We Ride” is more of the same, but the punchy guitars give way to a tight power punk format a la Simple Plan if fronted by Fred Durst during the hellish chorus. There’s a lot of intensity in the song, but it comes off more as theatrical angst than anything else. Taking a breath during the bridge with a buried guitar, the song’s proverbial second wind consists of a series of dark and brooding Dream Theater-meets-Metallica guitar picking. Watkins delivers a blood-curdling scream before the tune peters out. Most of the early songs have a summer driving style to them—if you are a teenager, that is. “Last Train Mode” is a somber and melancholic power pop tune that one knows will turn on its head for the chorus. Thankfully, they keep along the punk line, making it far meatier and less pretentious—until the orchestral strings are tacked on at the end, all of which lead into “Make a Move”, something you hope the band does within the next few tracks. “Everyday we’re getting older / And everyday we’re getting colder”, Watkins sings, a couplet that is well past its expiration date.
Possibly the biggest hurdle Lostprophets have is trying to sound a bit edgier but having songs that are far too formulaic, especially on the Collective Soul-ish “Burn, Burn”, which comes complete with handclaps and harmonies. Think a catchier but far lighter “Anthem for the Year 2000” by Australia’s Silverchair. The slow-building bridge leads into more of a nü-metal conclusion that might get your head bobbing, but it’s very forgettable afterwards. Even more unbelievable is the light, Incubus-by-numbers “I Don’t Know” that has its lows and highs in terms of anger and serenity. Only on “Hello Again” does Lostprophets conjure up some sort of originality, and even then it’s only a smidgen of what could possibly be. Another irritant is how the songs are seamless, so the conclusion of one song is actually the lead in to the next tune. When they get into soppy “woe is me” ballads like “Goodbye Tonight”, they sound like a happy-go-lucky pop band that is void of any metal traits.
Another problem with the record is how fleeting each song is, despite the fact that the opening of each tune has promise. The title track is a good example, as it is buried under the mix before it goes back into the punkish, nü-metal flavor of the month. Faith No More is also brought back from the dead as the piano tinkling surpasses the guitars. An answering machine message at the culmination of “A Million Miles” might be the only inventive moment here. On the whole, Lostprophets seem a bit lost on this average at best offering. If you like disposable rock, this is for you.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/lostprophets-start/