The Rails - Life's A Lonely Ride
Dan Round 11/09/2006
As the muted, stabby power chord intro of opener 'Ready To Fly' kicks
off, it becomes obvious the Rails didn't just take a similar name to a Foo Fighters song, and throughout the album their influence on the band, and the influence of other great bands on them, is hung out high for everyone to see. After the tame first track, the album bursts into a sharp, melodic explosion. 'Everyone's Son' sounds like early REM (circa-1983), another listed and proud influence. It is also reminiscent of the less electronic and more basic material from Hope Of The States' first album, a similarity that is also apparent on the closing 'Waste Your Time'. Maybe Jeremy Willet's whiney yet tuneful vocals are destined to succeed the recently departed HOTS and their singer Sam Herlihy. They certainly have mastered the melodic bittersweet to match. The song's bitter lyrics ("I'm your sweetest dream/and your enemy") are outshone by the more sweet than bitter chorus. With a heartfelt melody and Willet's plea of understanding it is without doubt the early standout track.
The following 'I'm In Love With Misery' contains chiming, Johnny Marr-esque guitars in the optimistic youthful verse, but the chorus is a dull let down. Track 4 however could potentially be a future classic. "Chasing after dreams have left me jaded" sings Willets before lamenting about remembering "how things used to be". The wise lyrics and harmonic tune which is replaced latterly with powerful blows on the guitar on 'Mother, Games and School' make for superb listening and yet again they manage to pull-off the bittersweet sound. Willets ends "wishing I'd never gone away" with affecting backing vocals by Drew Doman (guitarist/vocalist).
The title track recalls another Smiths-esque rhythm and lead with more
chiming harmonics to great effect. The following 'One In A Million' however is the first real stinker. It sounds like a classic 70s rock band
balladeering, and the underwhelming lyrics combined with the predictable, clichéd music makes it more than skipable.
On track 7 the band really pick up and raise the barrier. Missed
Connection's "loneliness is suicide baby" hook shouldn't lead the listener astray - it is the first entirely upbeat and optimistic piece of music on the album - with The Rails again proving they are masters of disguising scornful, dark lyrics with an up-tempo tune. The build-up and chorus with the constantly effective backing vocals and correlation between the brash guitar playing and the energetic vocals are almost like the same dynamic displayed in Jeff Tweedy's first band Uncle Tupelo, with Willets and Doman covering the same harmonic folk-punk-pop as Tweedy and jay Farrar did. It is a beautifully raging optimistic piece of affirmation.
Yet again, however, The Rails frustratingly follow such greatness with disappointment. 'Feel It', the first entirely Doman sung track since the opener bores with its constant, low guitar drone. 'Sad Bastard' is the nearest the band get to Nirvana on this album, with angsty and fragmented vocals and simple, dark music. Track 10, 'Blue Collar Town' is lyrically as good as anything else on the album, with the theme seemingly about escapism. The music isn't too adventurous though, and at this stage in the record is tiring and aimless. The band seem content with letting the guitars repeat over and over with slight differing lead instrumentation as the song progresses. On the cover of the promo copy I have been given, a sticker reads: "For a brief sampling of our sound before enjoying the entire record, please listen to tracks 4, 10 and 11". Track 4, the achingly beautiful 'Mothers, Games and School' undoubtedly deserves the accolade of a superior, anchoring album track, even if 'Blue Collar Town' doesn't. Number 11, Tonight however, does deserve recognition as a standout. It doesn't quite command the raw excitement of 'Everybody's Son' or 'Missed Connection', but it is one of the album's best instantly poppy moments. With Willets at his tonal best, he contagiously repeats "tonight/tonight/we try to make things right/tonight" to great effect. Doman's catchy, bassy lead guitar shines through too. Although not the very best song from the album, it would probably make for the best single - it is radio friendly, repetitive, catchy, instant and poppy.
Then comes Jeff Harmon's drum beat leading into 'Waste Your Time', that other Hope Of The States reminiscing moment. A soft and tender song, it is a fitting ending with the regretful "in the past/think of all the things you could have done" catch line bringing the album to a sad close, wishing for more.
And that's exactly how it should end because if they had chosen one of
the albums lesser tracks to end with it would have been a tragedy (almost). But that's the problem - for all the 3 pieces' melody and good spirits caught up in sharp, Weezer-pop ambitions, there are some really underachieving moments. This makes the album an inconsistent and frustrating listen, jostling between the great, the good and the, quite frankly, crap.
Despite this, The Rails have on the whole produced a promising debut
with plenty to be optimistic about, proving a knack for both upbeat and
melancholic pop songs. It's not flawless, but with songs like 'Everyone's Son' and 'Waste Your Time', 'Life's A Lonely Ride' is an enjoyable listening experience. A solid debut.
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