Sad Planets' 'Akron, Ohio' Is Just Another Injustice Against the City
Sad Planets live up to their moniker by creating a very sad, lonely album, Akron, Ohio.
19 April 2019
Hailing from Ohio, I understand that Akron often receives the short end of the stick. The loss of industry in my home state hit the city hard, and its major claim to fame, LeBron James, couldn't ever exactly play for his hometown because Akron boasts no major sports teams. Akron, Ohio deals with enough B.S., and Sad Planets' album of the same name is yet another injustice against the city.
One could argue that Akron is actually responsible for this travesty, as both members of Sad Planets hail from the Rubber Capital of the World. Consisting of the Black Keys' Patrick Carney and Cobra Verde's John Petkovic, Sad Planets actually recorded their album in Akron. Petkovic remarked how he considered it "an opportunity to reconnect with Akron in a very different way". If by 'different' he meant 'disrespectful', Petkovic nailed it. The "city ghosts" they sing about are rolling in their graves.
For one thing, nothing about Akron, Ohio feels remotely new in terms of sound. It sounds right at home with the classic rock your father plays in his car, but it lacks any sort of innovation or distinctiveness to set it apart. The vocal inflection off "Yesterdays Girls" comes straight out of Tom Petty's far superior "American Girl". "I'm lying," Petkovic rages at the beginning of "Bad Cells", instantly conjuring visions of John Lennon singing "I'm crying" on "I am the Walrus". The album registers as entirely dependent on the genres that precede it and fails to do anything fresh with them.
As far as lyricism goes, Akron, Ohio falls just as short. On "Just Landed", Sad Planets repeat the line "seeing myself with you" endlessly until it loses its meaning completely. "I know you can hear me," the duo sing on "Not of this World" and they would be incorrect – they're downright incoherent. Trying to make sense of their droning on "City Ghosts" might as well require an EVP recorder – what you can make out of the lyrics, lines like "She's got a hold of me / Just like a rosary" are moments of clever songwriting obscured by equally crappy ones along with the band's aural antics.
But even those bits of wordplay fail to make up for the downright cringe-y lyrics that come later in the record. It strikes me as a bit tasteless that people not fleeing any sort of persecution or hardship would refer to themselves as refugees, yet "(Falling Into the Arms of a) Refugee" exists. Even worse, the verses imply that the singers are responsible for turning their object of affection into a "refugee": "Torn from her mother / Lying under covers next to you." How romantic.
One bonus of the record, it clocks in at under 40 minutes, so a trek through it won't exactly take up much of your time. I tried to let it sit with me a few weeks to see if maybe, just maybe, I had underestimated it the way people tend to underestimate the Buckeye State. Unfortunately, Akron, Ohio falls victim to the same issues which plague the city it's named after. Stuck in the echoes of the past, it cannot seem to bring itself into the modern day.