[16 July 2001]
With an album title like Change Is on Its Way, Three 4 Tens take a surprisingly retro approach to their music. Reflecting and reveling in the past while still looking forward to the future, Three 4 Tens delight in the honesty of the earlier sound of the first British Invasion, where rock was more art than commercial commodity.
Abandoning the whiny rage that tends to overpopulate most of modern rock, Three 4 Tens have created a sound that is joyous and playful. Incorporating a lighthearted attitude (the first song is called “Mary’s Poppin’”) with great understanding of the history of rock, Three 4 Tens celebrate in gentle vocals and airy instrumentation. Short and simple, the nine songs on Change Is on Its Way bounce from one to the next easily. While given to some experimentation, the band understands how to balance all of its elements and bring in current aesthetics. They may have been inspired by the earlier days of rock, but they aren’t replicating it.
There is a slight novelty to this album, however, and while the music is obviously meant to be fun, it’s hard to say if it’s meant to be taken seriously. Change Is on Its Way has an artifice of expression, almost as if Three 4 Tens are playing a role rather than revealing what they truly think and feel about the world. Although songs like “Happy New Year” have a dreamy sincerity to them, with hushed vocals, tracks like “Mary’s Poppin’” seem to try to emulate the spirit of the ‘60s without fully succeeding. This is the major area where Three 4 Tens fail as a band. The retro sound is entertaining, but ultimately doesn’t provide enough of a connection to listeners.
The words seem pretty secondary to Change Is on Its Way‘s overall sound. No focus is placed on them, and they are quite often obscured by the music. The lyrics are fairly inconsequential even when they can be made out, and mostly just serve to compliment Three 4 Tens’ sound. If more emphasis had been placed on them, Three 4 Tens might have had the opportunity to say more but, mostly, it works in the context in which it is presented.
Change Is on Its Way may be a bit misleading as a title, but Three 4 Tens should be admired in their attempts to create new sounds by drawing on old ones. Even when the band is not entirely successful at this, Change Is on Its Way still maintains a sense of merriment in looking to the past of rock music.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/three4tens-change/