Not unlike a sugar rush, Symbolic Dream's candy-coated sheen quickly becomes too much of a good thing.
There is a fine line between paying tribute to pop music of the past, and just outright aping it, a line that Matthew Melton's band Warm Soda have walked perilously since their 2013 debut album Someone For You. To say that Melton and company wear their '70s power-pop and glam-rock influences on their sleeves would be a bit of an understatement, as their first two records, released less than a year apart from each other on the California-based psych-rock label Castle Face, have found Melton churning out bite-sized analog confections at rapid speeds. Symbolic Dream, Warm Soda's 3rd record in 2 years, reveals little change in Melton's devotion to power-pop and '60s California rock traditions and stands as arguably the group's most formulaic release.
Like the band's name suggests, Warm Soda's sugary nuggets are intended to go down fast, real fast. In fact, no song on Symbolic Dream manages to reach the three-minute mark and only two of the album's 12 tracks are longer than two-and-a-half minutes. This isn't the kind of dessert one savors at the end of a five course meal, this is the kind that is hastily ripped from its wrapper and devoured in a 7-11 parking lot on a 90 degree day. And like all junk-food binges, Symbolic Dream's short ride is filled with intoxicating highs, and dangerous lows.
The first taste that greets the listener on the record's opening track, "I Wanna Know Her", is indeed an invigorating, if rather slight, sugar rush with a crunchy power-chord shell a la Raspberries' "Tonight" or Cheap Trick's "Surrender" that is gone almost as soon as you bite into it. But not unlike finishing the first Starburst out of the pack, you're immediately ready for another dose as you reach to dig out the next few in a dopamine-induced frenzy. Delicious pinks, reds and oranges await you in the Stooges-esque swagger of "Dream I Left Behind" or the jangly surf-punk of "Will You Be There For Me Tonite?" as Melton urges you further along on your sugar spree declaring, "I don't wanna have to wait, I know I want it right now." But as you near the bottom half of the pack and the discarded wrappers begin to pile up around you, you start to realize that you've got nothing left but the yellow ones. Riffs quickly begin to sound repeated, Melton's detached croon begins to sound tired, and that rush you chased after the first few tracks loses all of its allure.
What is clear with Symbolic Dream is that Melton and crew do know how to concoct a potent confection, frosting on gooey layers of punk, bubblegum and power-pop that will have you mouth watering. But, much to the chagrin of children (and adults) everywhere, you can't eat candy 3 meals a day, and too much of Symbolic Dream's chewy center will have you suddenly wishing for some of mom's brussel sprouts.