Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Smartbomb - Diamond Heist CD Review

In the time it takes to type out this initial opening paragraph, over one third of Diamond Heist will have already played. As you can guess, this is far from a lengthy CD, with most songs clocking in around a minute and a half in length, and for as much as this keeps the release short and to the point, it is also what kills this album. There are so many good ideas being tossed around by Smartbomb, but rarely are any of them given enough space to become fully developed. Instead, songs come to a close just as they’re taking off, which is beyond unfortunate considering the band’s pedigree.

This three-piece, consisting of two members of No Trigger and one member of Shock Nagasaki, plays a style of punk that is definitely in the same vein as their other bands, but they slam their foot on the accelerator a bit harder. There’s no denying that playing fast and in your face is not a problem for the band. “Crucial Times” is the perfect example of what makes this band appealing (a raging 90’s Epi-Wreck slab of pulse-pounding punk), as well as what kills this album (a song that doesn’t necessarily go anywhere until it blends into the next track). If Smartbomb were to have combined “Crucial Times” and the next track, “Second View”, into one track it would have made for a diverse track that shows the band can do more than explore one singular element in a song.

The best section of the album comes later on in the form of the one-two punch of “PCH (Intermission)” and “Blood & Sand”. “PCH” takes its time to develop into a 3+ minute instrumental jam, letting the band actually make a transition or two between tempos and playing styles, which they do extremely well. “Blood & Sand” also stretches past the 2 minute mark and toys around with some vocal maneuvers that are unique to this track alone, namely using female backing vocals. To go with the feminine voice there is also a very bouncy and, dare I say it, poppy sound to the track.

However, after these two killer tracks, it is back to two more nondescript tracks that just plow ahead in the same manner as the first 7 songs of the album. To make matters worse, “My Wicked Mind” simply trails off to nothingness. I realize that it was a stylistic choice to go with the lyrics of the song, but it leaves the song feeling incomplete, coming off more so as an idea for a full fledged song rather than a completed musical effort.

Smartbomb have at times been referred to as simply “No Trigger’s side project”. For as much as this band wants to be more than that, they can’t crawl out from under the fact that Diamond Heist is little more than an underdeveloped, but well intentioned, imitation of the band members’ other bands. It’s not enough to have a lot of good ideas - you also need to know how to use them.

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