Black Heart, London, UK - 25/2
Written by: PP on 12/04/2007 12:54:42
That Fastlane's sophomore album "Overdrive" wasn't going to top their masterpiece "New Start" has been clear all along. The latter was critically acclaimed almost everywhere, with yours truly naming it as the best pop punk album to have been released in the last five years, and I still stand by my claim back then. How exactly should one approach reviewing a follow up to an album that renders all future releases insatiable other than with growing skepticism over the impending implosion within the band - the Saosin dilemma I was faced with late last year. It's always difficult to try to objectively judge a record by a band who wrote an album that even after two years is still in constant rotation in my playlist, but hey, reviewer's life is tough.
Just to reiterate what I already implied: "Overdrive" is not "New Start". The melodies are much darker, Ben's voice has lost some of the high-grounds and the wow-factor has been reduced to only a few instances throughout the album. It's not that "Overdrive" is all that bad as the infectiously catchy verse and chorus of "Hear Me Out" or the oddly tuned pleasing melody of "Uninvited Feeling" reveal. There are plenty of instances on the album where you'll re-discover why you loved "New Start" so much, moments where you'll find yourself awe-inspired over the ridiculously catchy and melodic songs ("The System") or Benji's ability to sound soothing and strong simultaneously ("Let This Go").
Nonetheless "Overdrive" doesn't inspire you the same way as "New Start" did - there are simply no "Dreaming"'s or "Summer Falls"'s on the album, and here I'm talking of songs that are life-changing, the kind that much bigger bands like Fall Out Boy ("Saturday") wrote around the same time but received just that much more hype on. There are a few songs that come close like "Sunset At Seventeen", but the melodic guitar interplay with vocal harmonies in general just isn't at the same level as in songs like "Virus" or "Comfortable Silence". The whole 'cock-rock' approach with Guns N Roses-inspired solos to pop punk just isn't the right one in my opinion, and neither is Benji's choice of sounding slightly nasal in a few songs, drawing parallels to early New Found Glory material, which in itself might not be a bad thing, but it ends up sacrificing much of the bright melody that raised Fastlane over so many other bands in my books.
"Overdrive" is still no doubt a good album - worthy of purchase as well - even though it doesn't deliver the monumental expectations most fans had on it. I still occasionally spin "Walk Away" to hear its melodious guitars that draw their sound from melodic hardcore, and dance to the bouncy riffs in "Motion" regularly, but overall, "Overdrive" isn't a masterpiece like "New Start". It might be above-average pop punk, but that's kind of like business as usual for Fastlane. FOB and New Found Glory fans look this way.
Download: Motion, Sunset At Seventeen, The System
For the fans of: New Found Glory, Fall Out Boy, Paramore, The Starting Line
Release date 07.05.2007