[18 May 2008]
When surveying the landscape of rock and roll over the past couple of decades, it’s hard not to see the widespread influence of Irish rock icons U2. Their fingerprints can be seen in a variety of ways; many a band has tried to directly imitate the group’s majestic sound while small traces of their work can even be seen in groups who don’t bear a stylistic resemblance.
The band has most often been referenced in the playing of a generation of guitarists who grew up appreciating and desiring to emulate the simultaneously ethereal yet insistent style created by The Edge. In the opening minutes of In Flight Radio’s second album, guitarist Saric’s approach signals listeners that he, too, is a member of that generation and that the New York-based band take a cue or two from their influences. The delay and arpeggios employed on the verses of opening track “Red Flags” and the hard-charging strum of the song’s chorus both point to the band’s desire to seek out what is grand and powerful about rock and roll and to embrace it.
What is most encouraging about In Flight Radio (at least as evidenced by the 11 tracks on this record), however, is the band’s ability to marry the grandeur of U2 and other Brit-rock influences (on their MySpace page, the band lists Oasis, Coldplay, Doves, and Snow Patrol among their forerunners) with more temperate, mellow sensibilities, a unique musical personality, and a seemingly effortless charm.
That charm is best personified in the contributions of frontwoman Peira, a singer who projects charisma, style, and just the right amount of confidence. Her vocals are, ultimately, the center point of The Sound Inside . Vocally, Peira is not a knockout. She does not have a voice that overpowers or overshadows her musical mates. Yet, she holds the power to easily endear herself to the listener and instantly create a feeling of familiarity and identification. Peira and the rest of In Flight Radio sound equally at home on rock tunes (“Red Flags”) and atmospheric ballads (like “Yelling Up to the Sky”) which allow the band to merge their mainstream radio-ready sense of melody with a hard-to-achieve sense of nuance.
As the album progresses, the band separates itself more and more from the obvious nods to their influences and begins to carve out its own musical style. That Saric and In Flight Radio produced the album gives the impression that this is the album the band wanted to make and a definite statement of their musical mission. If The Sound Inside truly is an accurate representation of the sound inside the band, In Flight Radio is a band seeking to put forward a sound that has the potential for wide appeal through means that are more subtle and that keep them from the temptation to pander to record companies or radio stations.
Great musical moments come on tunes like “Just Walk Away” with its atmospheric guitars, cascading vocals and gradually driving rhythms; tracks like this frame the band as a group able to revive the sounds produced by some of the better ethereal guitar rock artists of the ‘80s and ‘90s. The vibrancy and bounce that is presented, yet restrained on “Wait” (captured in guitar passages, percussion parts and vocal leaps) seems a picture of the band’s spirit, full of life yet in control.
A truly solid effort that features enough attractive qualities to pull listeners back for more, The Sound Inside showcases a band that knows where it came from and has a good idea where it is going.