Being sensitive, male and in a rock band has become very en vogue. Dashboard Confessional, Death Cab for Cutie, the Postal Service, and Modest Mouse have all enjoyed recent chart and critical success. Their names are being dropped in magazines from coast to coast and there are more like-minded acts returning to the scene. Maritime (made up of members of ex-emo cheerleaders the Promise Ring and D.C. punk act the Dismemberment Plan) have been busy on the road promoting their latest slice of mellow pop and Jimmy Eat World will finally return to the airwaves this fall with the release of their second major-label album, Futures.
Down to Earth Approach, with their debut full length Another Intervention, are offering up another slab of sensitive boy rock, ready for the airwaves and the hearts of young listeners across America. With the indie-rock equivalent of a rags-to-riches story behind them, there is no question Down to Earth Approach are ready for press. Originally hailing from Batavia, New York, the group relocated to California to pursue their musical career. Singer/guitarist Jonathan Lullo hooked up a dream job with Vagrant, who just happened to be releasing some of the records that had been inspiring him by groups such as the Get Up Kids and Saves the Day. Lullo and his bandmates continued to write and play shows, but surprisingly didn’t approach the very label Lullo was working for. The group started creating a buzz, capturing the attention of Lullo’s Vagrant co-workers, leading to a contract with one of genres biggest labels.
The band hit the studio, and with producer Dave Schiffman (Red Hot Chili Peppers, System of a Down, Rage Against The Machine, Mars Volta, Juliana Theory) put eleven songs to tape that would comprise their debut. Unfortunately, Schiffman, with his clean production, can’t bring enough polish to distract the listener from the fact that ultimately these songs are strikingly similar, and numbingly dull. Lullo’s slightly nasal, somewhat fey vocals are effective but hardly compelling. The musicianship is strong, but rarely intriguing and one can’t listen to Another Intervention without the feeling that they’ve been down this road one too many times before. Down to Earth Approach have made a fine emo record that perhaps would’ve been worthy of more praise five or six years ago. As such, the album feels like nothing more than retread of the territory adequately covered by their influences.
The problem with the Down to Earth Approach is that there is nothing here to separate them from the already crowded pack. Nothing on Another Intervention goes beyond being anything but efficient. The hooks are there, the soaring vocals, the clockwork percussion and a steady bass, but the songwriting never rises above being perfunctory. While the band name might accurately describe their aesthetic, it is one that is a tactic that has produced lackluster results. Down to Earth Approach will no doubt gather a following — fans of this sort of music will eat this up — but the band lacks the panache to break through to the mainstream.