You can't judge a book by its cover; though reeking in cliché, this tired saying is more or less true especially in the recent release of the Love Arcade's self-titled debut. To just hear the name of the band or look at their album cover, it would be generally fair to assume that the Love Arcade would fall into the emo market, void of originality and taste. But one listen to this 12 track collection and any listener will surely be convinced that they are more than what they initially bargained for. Blending lyrics that fall on the line between serious and goofy (without swaying to either of the extremes), guitar licks that would make a classic rock snob proud and vocals that sound frighteningly similar to Matthew Pryor of the Get Up Kids, the Love Arcade have created an eclectic mix of songs that all vary in style and execution.
The Love Arcade seem to be following in the footsteps of bands like Weezer, Gorillaz and Cake, not necessarily in style but in their concept as a band: they make rock music and look to push its boundaries, instead of just falling into whichever localized genre seems to be gaining popularity at the time. They make serious rock music without taking themselves too seriously.
However, as mentioned before, to categorize the Love Arcade would be a near impossible feat, which is made clear by the opening track, “Keep It Comin'”, an upbeat standard rock song with catchy vocals and even synchronized clapping thrown in for good measure. The song also shows the band's ability to pen catchy songs that (most of the time) avoid sounding prepubescently whiny, while never becoming overly distracting in meaning or diction. Drifting away from this sound, the third track “Candy” is filled with aggressively suggestive lyrics and a raunchier sound that permeates through the speakers and will make the listener feel at least a little bit dirty: “I'll pop that cherry if it's necessary to make that jam.”
Throughout the rest of the album, the band works like a chameleon, changing their sound from funky bass and drum work on “Can't Stop” (reminiscent of early N.E.R.D.) to the acoustic “Waste My Life”, to the guilty pleasure party track fittingly titled “Party”, all the way to a slower ode to love called “Passenger” that has a backing synthesizer that sounds like something created for one of today's pop princesses. Listening to the album all the way through is just an interesting experience; very few records today have the sort of variety that is created here, the band never sticking with just one style or genre to exist in.
Though the majority of the album is above expectations, a few tracks are especially delicious like the creeping “Moses” where a crystal clear piano is played in contrast to rough and screeching vocals. The levels of musicality on this specific record is quite impressive considering the origin (and head writer) of the band is a fellow right out of high school who goes by the name Snowhite. Another especially impressive piece is the straining closing track “Open Up” that features an orchestrated backing that sounds as though it was pulled from the latest Hollywood blockbuster's soundtrack. As in “Moses”, the clarity and beauty of the orchestrated moments is held sharply up against the earnest wailing of the vocals and their simple message of longing: “Kiss me like you always meant it.”
Snowhite supposedly picked these 12 tracks out of an archive of over 200 personally written pieces to best display the talents and focus of the group. However, there are several cases where it must be wondered if there really wasn't anything better than some of the less impressive pieces. A few songs are cringingly painful like the obnoxiously angst-ridden narrative “Tease Me” and the clunky “Goin' Down Smooth” that seems to lack any genuine energy and doesn't seem to move past the slower-than-molasses pace created by waining guitars and a rhythmically numbing drumbeat.
Incredibly varied in its portrayal, the message of the Love Arcade to the music world is that rock n' roll doesn't need to be something in the past; so much can be accomplished by exploring the genre and taking the fundamentals of the music to the next level. Though there is a lack of congruity throughout the collection (which makes the album feel a little scattered), the freshness of nearly every one of the tracks seems to be enough to make up for its shortcomings. With a debut album this shockingly impressive, it will be interesting to see how the Love Arcade improves and further crafts their dynamic sound over the next few years before they crank out a sophomore effort.
Release date: August 8, 2006
Label: Atlantic Records
Rating: 7.8 / 10
© Copyright 1998-2005 RockMusicReview.com. All Rights Reserved.