Kodaline – [Album]

Friday, 11 October 2013

Karl Marx once said that history is forever doomed to repeat itself – the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce. I've written those words in CD reviews before (readers are welcome to draw their own conclusions on the irony of me citing the quote again) but it's particularly pertinent in Kodaline's case; on In A Perfect World, Kodaline seems intent on actively trying to hit a sort of existential 'reset' button again.

The first time that button was pressed (in recent memory) was thirteen years ago, when Coldplay came along and totally upended the aggressive, nu-metallic paradigm holding radio hostage, and reintroduced some gentility and artifice to the mix. At the time, the public was sick of singers like Jonathan Davis and David Draiman grunting, spitting and hardcore scatting over a dirty, atonal guitar figure and tired of dolts like Fred Durst making the world safe for tasteless homophobic rappers and climbing out of toilets onstage, so a lighter, and more gentle set of hands won rock back. That loss – at least for metalheads – was the tragic turn and now, a decade later, while modern rock is reigniting old flames with hardcore and marveling at works of new Desert Rock experimentation while also re-working new forms of old folk, Kodaline has arrived to try and bring attention back to more simply (but elegantly) composed form of Brit-rock which hasn't been heard in a while.

That's all well and good, of course, but there's also a problem with In A Perfect World. With their delicately composed melodies and even prettier (and tasteful) sense of arrangement, there's no question that Kodaline could inspire a revolution for a minute, before would-be aesthetic rebels realize that In A Perfect World is also perfectly vacuous. That's the farce of it.

While there's no question that it gets wishy-washy and overwrought pretty quickly, it does need to be conceded that In A Perfect World does ensnare and hold listeners' attention well in the early running. Listeners will find themselves unable to turn away from “One Day” as the song opens with some brilliant guitar arpeggios and Steve Garrigan's beautiful high register (which sounds more genuine than Chris Martin's often lazy/sleepy croon usually does) perched safely on top. That beginning is warm, relaxed and inviting and will have listeners set at ease early, and that passivity makes it very easy to accept songs like “All I Want,” “High Hopes” and “Brand New Day” because they're really just more of the exact same tone, but each song is also too patronizingly easy to forget. In each song, the vocal melodies are pleasing and the lyrics are safely unremarkable enough to fly totally under the radar (check out how perfectly trite lines like “All I want is nothing more/ To hear you knocking at my door/ Because if I could see your face once more/ I could die a happy man I'm sure” from “All I Want”) but there's no real hook to pull listeners along, and no mind-bending moment to really win any undying fans; it's just good while it lasts and the sensation's gone at the end of each song. That, in a word, is frustrating – especially when In A Perfect World offers the same formula eleven times over with little variation from the band's norm.

Because In A Perfect World is so perfectly easy to forget, there's no question that the record will find listeners among those who have no trouble with passive listening. Those who simply want to throw something on that they can ignore will have found a platinum beacon with this album. Those who desire something which leaves an indelible impression will me left wanting though; while the band might be capable of such music, they don't show it here. Because of that, the true measure of Kodaline's worth will have to come on their next release; if it's better than In A Perfect World, the band might be onto something but, if not, the band seems bound for the proverbial bargain bin. They need their Rush Of Blood To The Head in order to have a hope.


Kodaline – In A Perfect World – "High Hopes" – [mp3]


In A Perfect World
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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