Josh Page
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January 18, 2007
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Under the Influence of Giants Under the Influence of Giants
August 8, 2006
Island
Mama's Room Mama's Room

Island
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Rock Music Reviews
Under the Influence of Giants
Under the Influence of Giants

Los Angeles based Under the Influence of Giants seem to have been under the influence of some very potent aphrodisiacs when they recorded their major label debut last year; each song reeks with a stench of sexual tension and perversion that could easily rival the explicit lyrical raunchiness that exudes from the pores of artists like Prince and Madonna during her Erotica period. Under the Influence, musically, sounds as though they are the long lost brother to the Scissor Sisters, with club-ready beats that accompany ingenious lyrics that rarely falter away from the aggressive thumping of a never satisfied sex drive.

The album begins with “Ah Ha” where lead singer Aaron Bruno sings like a member of the Bee Gees; boasting an un-interrupted falsetto that soars through the verses accompanied by some impressive high-pitched cooing, reminiscent of Michael Jackson. This opening track more or less sets the tone for the remainder of the album, that feels bejeweled with some deliciously addictive dance-pop while also being littered with some other less undesirable tracks that feel like they deserved to remain on the cutting room floor.

However, the album shines with enough luster to bypass some of the mediocre tracks. “In the Clouds” is an perfectly crafted dirty little ditty where Bruno's confidence as a vocalist matches the brash vocals about meeting his lover the clouds (which considering the context of the song should not be too hard to decode).

First single, “Mama's Room” is a guiltily fun (if not a little creepy) track that epitomizes the diverse range of music Under the Influence of Giants is trying to cover throughout their album; expertly sung vocals match a sturdy drumbeat and echoing synthesizers that are all held together by a well-appreciated bass guitar.

And though, by the end of the album, the novelty of the band's sound may feel slightly worn out, “Faces” provides one last stand out of the set with vocals that rattle out of Bruno's mouth to an accompanying bass and drumbeat that recalls a more upbeat version of No Doubt's “Hella Good”.

And while UTIOG obviously fancies the dancehall to the ballroom, there are two slower tracks on the album that lack (shockingly!) any synthesizers, but instead a rhythm that brings back memories of the days of Motown. The delicate “I Love You” features a gentle flute that matches the slightly-corny premise of the song. “Lay Me Down”, the second slower tune on the album is not only stellar in comparison to the former, but possibly to most of the other tracks regardless of style. Three minutes and forty-one seconds of acoustic strumming, soulful bass lines and simply endearing lyrics mix together effortlessly with Bruno's vocals (that sound absolutely heavenly) to create a nice break in the midst of the onslaught of dance tracks.

While this debut brags its unique sound with catchy choruses and a few cases of excellently written and produced dance numbers, once the eleventh track has elapsed, listeners may find themselves burning three to four of the songs onto a mix, and shelving the rest. The problem doesn't lie in the music itself; UTIOG know what they're doing in regards to producing their music, but the replay value of the album seems very limited. Instead of synthesizers demanding an unsufficing amount of attention on most tracks, the band could have experimented more with their softer side, adding a necessary amount of variation. It's like going to a club on a Friday night; the thrill and excitement that comes in with you eventually is replaced by a sweaty and annoyed atmosphere causing you to want only one thing: to get out.

Release date: August 8, 2006
Label: Island Def Jam
Rating: 6.7 / 10

On the web: http://www.utiog.com/
[RMR]