SR-71: Tomorrow

Jason Damas



Label: RCA
US Release Date: 2002-10-22
UK Release Date: Available as import

While SR-71's 2000 debut was pedestrian punk-pop at best, the band hinted that they had a greater pop pedigree than their peers. Their admitted love of Paul McCartney and collaborations with Butch Walker -- someone who is probably the best talent in aggressive mainstream power-pop -- manifested in songs that were, by and large, catchier and more developed than what their peers came up with. Some of that skill sticks around on Tomorrow, the band's sophomore effort, but it's drowned out by blatant attempts at mainstream crossover appeal.

I guess the lingering question is "who cares?", and maybe I shouldn't. SR-71 always had some of that corporate rock stench on them, and it's not like they're betraying a loyal, longtime fanbase by jumping ship and sounding like a suburb of Linkin Park. But when you consider that the driving, heavy arena-rock of Linkin Park and their imitators (Trust Company, Default, etc.) has dominated the rock charts for the past year and a half -- not coincidentally the time passed since SR-71 last had a hit -- then it's easy to realize just how cold and corporate SR-71's sonic shift truly is.

Nearly every song on Tomorrow sounds like it's aimed straight at mainstream rock radio airplay, tailored to the T with big, thundering riffs and Mitch Allan's screaming vocals. Sonically, the band not only sounds like Linkin Park, but Allan sounds almost exactly like 'Park vocalist Chester Bennington. Every song sports that bizarrely early '00s-era production where every instrument sounds like its ready to explode your speakers and the vocals are half-screamed, yet the overall effect is that of over-production, too slick to have any real bite.

And there's something for every fan of modern aggro-rock here, whether it's the anthemic title track, the anthemic pop punk of "My World" or "They All Fall Down", the anthemic metal of "Goodbye", or the anthemic ballad "In My Mind". Sense a pattern?

Criticisms aside -- and it is easy to levy them at Tomorrow -- SR-71 do have some songwriting ability, and that means that while the disc finds the band playing within (rather than playing with) current rock conventions, each song is wedded to a big, dumb-but-memorable-and-catchy hook. So, on a base level, if you forget the shameless cash grab, or if you don't even realize SR-71 existed before this, Tomorrow can be pretty enjoyable.

But while Tomorrow may wind up being a hit on modern rock radio, it'll be a hollow victory. It's the kind of album where the band sold their soul to the devil in exchange for a hit that no one will remember and a spot in the cutout bin that everyone will. It also makes it much easier to dismiss SR-71 than their not-bad debut Now You See Inside had suggested.

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