Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Return to Arms - Return to Arms CD Review

When you woke up this morning, what did you do? In detail, please. I bet you actually have to think about it, don't you? It’s because we so rarely think about the everyday motions and activities that we go through -- they're done mostly on instinct or out of habit. Every day I wake up to the first ring of my alarm clock, grab my clothes from my dresser, take a shower, brush my teeth, get dressed, make my lunch, grab my backpack, and head out to catch the bus. It’s the same every day. The only mornings I actually remember are the ones where something outside of the norm happened. When it is just my usual routine, I have no way of differentiating days. The same can really be said of today's emo rock scene -- if you don't do something that's different, you're not going to get noticed.

This debut EP from Return to Arms contains five tracks of modern emo rock that uses each and every one of the routines that have been established as templates for this genre. Starting the album is a mid-tempo rock track that feels like a slightly more rocking version of Mae, but minus the thought out conceptual nature of most Mae tracks. “Overdose” continues in the same vein, but tosses in a few “nah-nah”s and some vocal manipulations to keep the song from sounding like an outright duplication of the previous track. It’s not enough, though, because I’ve heard this song at least 20 times from 15 different bands in the last year alone.

With the third track, “Take Your Time”, you get a bouncy dance rock inspired intro that quickly slips back into bland, uninspired emo before too long. The bouncy guitars do make further appearances, but they simply feel like cheap imitations of bigger, better hooks made by bigger, better bands. “This is for You” slows down the tempo and channels copious amounts of early career Saves the Day. The use of a vocoder on the vocals at the end of the track would be interesting if it didn’t feel so awkward. If anything ever needed a moratorium declared upon it, it is the vocoder. I don’t think there is a band out there that knows how to use it properly, which probably means it’s not a very good choice for an accentuating tool to be used in the creation of music. The end of the EP comes in the form of “A Crime in Progress”, a straight ahead song that could easily fill in for a My American Heart or Name Taken track (which, by the way, is not exactly a compliment).

Return to Arms are just going through the motions. They’ve listened to enough rock, indie, and emo to know what you need to fit into the genres, and they’ve put together loose copies of what they know instead of actually creating something unique. It may sound harsh, but if a band is going to get anywhere, they can’t simply ape what’s been done before and call it theirs -- they need to have an identity.

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