The First

Take Courage

Written by: TL on 18/10/2013 14:48:08

When I came upon The First's set at 2011's Hevy Fest, their engaging showmanship and positive attitude succeeded in persuading me to check out the band's debut LP "Swimming With Sharks" from the year before. Yet while the record had some highly catchy moments, it eventually left the listener questioning what The First could do moving forward, to properly set themselves apart from bigger, similar bands like The Blackout or Lostprophets - a question the recently released sophomore "Take Courage" supposedly attempts at answering.

Then again, maybe not, because as we dive into "Take Courage", things are pretty much the same in the world of The First. The band sticks to an up-beat, melodic, modern rock, dominated by power-chord patterns, tapped leads and clean-sung vocal melodies, yet fused with just enough pseudo-hard grooves and occasional, faded background screams to avoid a straight-up pop-rock label. Admittedly, the production has improved half a notch, as "Take Courage" seemingly wants to spread its wings a little wider, but it's a subtle difference, and generally you get the feeling that the ambition is one of making modest good-times rock, built on easy tunes and predictable dynamics that will compel some dancing and bouncing movements in the live setting.

It's hard to justify hating on such a forthcoming effort, but the truth is that it's pretty hard to get excited as well, especially considering that the first four songs on the album blend together helplessly, with "Take It Back" and "Dare I Say I Ruined Everything"'s best impressions on me being that each has a part that reminds me of respectively a Yellowcard and a Yashin song. The problem is that the consequence is that I instantly feel more interested in skipping over to those instead, and the wannabe-hard riff and screams of "Take It Back", coupled with the tempo and gang choirs that opener "There's No Place Like Home" borrows from hardcore punk, only come off like a feigned edge that the band doesn't seem interested in honing.

Rather The First appear unwilling to run any risks that could compromise their catchiness, which sort of makes sense for a bit when "Monster" comes off the tracklist with the kind of stupidly catchy refrain that gets past your defenses and lodges itself in your memory even on listens when you've pretty much stopped paying attention to the album. Hell, the groovy riffage that follows the chorus even works decently as a contrast. Following, the uplifting and anthemic power-ballad that's been made the title track is not ineffecient either, thriving off a traditional arena-rock build-up, a classic "whoa-oh"-backed, unifying chorus and an girl-backed, mellow bridge section that's classically cinematic in a corny, Disney sort of way.

Despite these decent centrepieces however, and despite the commendable exuberance of the following "Shark Attack" - a likely nod back to the former album - the proverbial cat has already been poking its head out of its bag for too long, and as the three remaining tracks slide the album back into inconsistency, the essential truth escapes fully: Even a late guest appearance from the powerful voice of Elissa Franceschi (the older sister of Josh from You Me At Six) can't save "Take Courage" from the unambitious and onedimensional songwriting that permeates it on almost every level.

The record shines occasionally, especially when the cleaner, more 'epic' guitar parts are brought to the front, but mostly bores because the band seems uncommitted to punching you properly with their half-hearted heavy bits, and fails to make up for it with catchy enough choruses: Something that otherwise seems to have been intended as the album's bread and butter. Eventually then, despite The First's seemingly likeable intentions and up-beat energy, this second effort of theirs is a mostly mediocre offering, which will probably have a fairly limited lifespan in most people's playlist rotations.


Download: Monster, Take Courage, Dare I Say I Ruined Everything
For The Fans Of: The Blackout, Lostprophets, Madina Lake, Shadows Chasing Ghosts

Release Date 23.09.2013
Destroy Everything

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