The City And Skyway

Everything Looks Worse In Black And White

Written by: TL on 21/08/2009 18:40:09

Have you guys ever noticed how, in music, it seems that a band needs to have a.. gimmick.. or maybe rather a trademark.. - something to be associated with, in order to make it big? Think about it for a second - How many of your favourite bands doesn't have some kind of 'tag' on them. It may be something superficial, like their slick hair cuts, their corpse paint, their outspoken ways, their party-animals reputation or their distinct gothic imagery, or it may be something about their music, a trademark guitar sound, sonic references to other famous bands, a distinct singer or maybe just a reputation for being harder and heavier than everyone else. The thing is, whether it's on purpose or not, by far the majority of bands have "their thing" that they're associated with, and even those post-modern ones who insist on dressing plainly and playing straight forward songs, are likely to be known for just that. Insisting on not having a thing is their thing you see?

One such band would seem to be The City And Skyway, the debut album of whom, "Everything Looks Worse In Black And White", I have been attempting to dissect for little over a week. Truth be told, in the beginning it pissed me off, because when you first listen to this band, they are going to seem like pretty much the most nondescript alterna-rock act in recent memory, and the seeming lack of character to their stuff will have you yawning and reaching for the next cd in your review pile (if you had a such) before long. However, while the band may be very smug and satisfied with having successfully dodged pigeonholing like that, the truth is that they can in fact be labeled, if not for their music then for their past, since some of their members can claim to have played for reputable bands like Dashboard Confessional and The Promise Ring in the past.

For and idea of what they sound like, imagine the sounds of say, early Hawthorne Heights or Bedlight For Blueeyes, deduct the poppy simplicity of the former and the OTT vocals of the latter, and replace them with layers upon layers of mostly clean riffage and some more down to earth vocals. What you end up with should then sound.. like something in between Mae and Armor For Sleep maybe?

So anyway, by being one of those said bands who willingly tries to avoid genre-labels, gimmicks and, as an added 'bonus', also conventional simplistic songwriting, TCAS seem to have confidence in their material to do well, left entirely on its own. Does it then? Well, unfortunately for those who like to obsess over such a pretentious concept as 'artistic integrity', my answer is not an unequivocal yes.

You see, for about half the songs on offer on "Everything Looks Worse..", TCAS try to marry two concepts of theirs and it doesn't quite work. On one hand, they have elements of complex emorock in them, and on the other, they seem to be a bit ironed out and poppified for the shallow audience. In these songs, the band sounds like a tired 90's rock band, like Lifehouse, except without the hit potential, and that's their biggest problem in my eyes. However, like I've hinted, there's also a good handful of songs that are alright, them being those where one of the two directions is allowed to prosper at the cost of the other. Hence opener "I Never Thought I'd Lose My Mind" and especially track seven, "Killing Pill", are decent linear rockers that are catchy enough to get you reluctantly singing along after a listen or four. The best treat is though - and I know it's predictable for me to say so - when the band allows itself to be both ambitious and emo. "In November" has enough restrained emotion in its drifting lines to make a memory, but the real star of the pack is without question "Doctor We Need Healing".

This one song pretty much sums up my ambiguity towards TCAS. Don't get me wrong, it's great the way the song just grows and grows, utilizing good quiet/loud dynamics and intensifying with each reoccurring chorus, but it also begs the question why more of the songs weren't written with as much ambition and confidence as this one? And to be quite specific, why more of them doesn't have the same heart scrapingly good screams this baby has in the end? I know screaming is clichéd by now, but guys, when you can do some that sounds as credible as this, nobody's going to fault you for taking advantage of it. Without it, it seems like the band is just too constantly restrained, and with it, I almost feel like we could have had some kind of fantastic, complex Brand New-ish band on our hands!

Anyway, to round things off, I guess what I'm saying is, that for a band debuting their first LP, TCAS are rather good, but still, the superficial audience will probably skip them for their lack of novelty, while even the rest of us might let them go because they seem like they haven't met their potential yet. Maybe it's the lack of screams, maybe it's the fact that both guitars are adjusted to sound almost exactly the same (thus making it harder to distinguish the riffs), or maybe it's the drums that could sound a tiny bit better in the mix, I won't honestly presume to set the final diagnosis - But while this is a good and fairly consistent record (with a long life-expectancy, given its layered nature), I just can't shake the feeling that it could've been a lot better.


Download: "Killing Pill", "I Never Thought I'd Lose My Mind", "Doctor, We Need Healing", "In November"
For The Fans Of: Mae, Bedlight For Blueeyes, Armor For Sleep,

Release Date 04.07.2009

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