This is about as honest as mainstream alternative rock gets right now. Sure all the derivative shit is in place—enough Athens, Seattle, Chapel Hill and Chicago to almost write this off as mid-‘90s throwback radio-oriented-rock. But before you get to slag them off as Pumpkins rehash, they pull out a Posies reference and, like Stringfellow and Auer, bring something a bit smarter to the picture. Sprinkled among all the stuff you’ve heard before are some captivating harmonies, brilliant drumming and inspired guitar passages. The rewards with this stuff, when they come, are mild but worth the time it takes to find them.
For me the lighter pop numbers carry more weight and conviction than the Creed-cum-Soundgarden shit they pull. And even though the pop tunes look back to ‘80s pop-rock more than they look to Reckoning or even Gish, they bring a lyrical strength and energy the metal stuff lacks. I’m just not sure you can get away with “Dig down deep/Pursue ‘till you bleed/You might have to feel/So you can be freed,” right now. Fans expect lyrical desperation to be followed with musical desperation. The pose doesn’t work anymore. Ask Kurt. Still, I think it’s a confusing time to own a guitar and the shortcomings that tug at Opiate Sea aren’t talent or ability but history. When to stop distilling the distilled? My favorite moments here are when they can’t hide all the hours they spent listening to Cheap Trick.
Standout Tracks: My Enemy, Birdman
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/shapeshifter-opiate/