In their brief career, the San Francisco, California, five-piece band the Pleased has already racked up quite an impressive tally of scene points having played with the likes of the Vines, Clinic, Rooney, the Music, and the Raveonettes. Though their one sheet throws around names like the Velvet Underground and Echo and the Bunnymen as influences, the truth of the matter is the Pleased sound more like the second coming of U2 or Coldplay. Only time will tell if they will reach the heights of those bands' best material or fall into mediocrity as one-time contenders Travis have. But if their debut Don't Make Things is any indication, the Pleased could very well have an interesting future ahead of them.
Don't Make Things isn't a fantastic debut, as it often stumbles in places, and it is clearly the work of a band still finding themselves musically. However, the group does exude a swaggering confidence that carries them through the 14 tracks presented, making their first disc a strong one.
The band is at its best when they let the songs build with a slow power before unleashing some truly epic guitars and soaring vocals. Disc openers "Already Gone" and "We Are the Doctor" find the Pleased building some rather triumphant tracks. The former starts with laid back, tossed off guitar strumming before steaming into a chorus with dual reverberated vocals and guitars that are sure to make the Edge blush. When dual vocalists Noah Georgeson and Rich Good urgently sing, "I'm already gone", it positively raises goosebumps. The latter, is a straight-ahead rocker that still manages to expand breathlessly in the chorus. "Wake Up Instead" is beautifully carried by Georgeson and Good's vocals, guided by a guitar riff ripped from Britpop's golden era in the early '90s. These are songs tailor-made for stadiums and expensive stage lighting, but unlike the contrived (yet oddly praised) the Darkness, there is nothing ironic or faux-nostalgic about these songs. They are all the more endearing because of their heart-on-the-sleeve sincerity.
The Pleased make a few missteps when they try to enter territory better occupied by the likes of the Strokes. "No Style" finds the vocalists aping the slurred delivery of Julian Casablancas and lyrically trying to emulate his detached gaze on social convention and hipsterism. It isn't particularly convincing, neither is "If You Can Afford It" as it also walks disappointingly down a path better occupied by Casablancas and his cohorts. There are also a couple unfortunate forays into instrumental material that, while neither bad nor good, are just uninteresting and out of place.
Clearly struggling to find a place within today's musical climate, the Pleased are wavering between embracing their stadium rock leanings, or falling into the garage revival trend that is currently sweeping the alternative music scene. While the Pleased are perfectly capable of playing that sort of material, they don't do it particularly well and lack the non-persona persona of the Strokes or the sweaty joie du vivre of Mando Diao. The Pleased are at their best when they send melodies cruising through the upper regions of stereo speakers, enveloping the listener in a blanket of reverb and clear, expansive vocals.
It would be shame if the Pleased collapsed under the pressure of their immediate music scene, as Don't Make Things is the work of a band with potential that is yet untapped. It will be interesting to see what future albums from the Pleased will bring, and which side of themselves they will choose to explore. They have arrived at a fork in the road; one is an open path of limitless possibilities, the other, a narrower, more crowded path where they will have to fight their due. I only hope they know which way to go.