Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Say Like the French Say - This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things Album Review

If I know the people in a band, especially if the is pretty good, I like to try to get them any promotion I can, but I usually refrain from doing full-on album reviews in order to maintain some sense of objectivity. With this review, which was for a friend's band, I had assigned it to another one of Decoy Music's staff to review but the guy flaked and I wanted to get something done up for these guys so I broke one of my rules and reviewed it myself. So if you think that's tossing my objectivity out the door from the get-go, that's fine, but I tried to be as level-headed as possible and, to this day, I still find myself listening to this album every now and again. You can take that for what it's worth. This was originally published on July 13, 2010.

If you’re an indie band and you hail from Minneapolis, MN, it’s pretty much a given that you’re going to have a little bit of Motion City Soundtrack in your music. They’ve had such an impact on the Minnesota indie music scene that it’s hard not to feel the influence they have over the current musical landscape. Thankfully, their influence is just that—an influence. Everyone has their influences—good bands use them to shape and craft their own sound while crappy bands just rip them off. Thankfully, Say Like the French Say only use their influences as springboards for new musical endeavors instead of ripping them off outright.

Throughout This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, the band’s debut album, you’ll hear nods to the aforementioned Motion City Soundtrack, but you’ll also find post-hardcore leanings and mellow, introspective moments throughout. You’ll notice the Motion City Soundtrack comparison most from the vocals and the occasional song structure, but from there the band ventures out into their own musical territory, synthesizing the Minneapolis indie rock sound with what sounds like a healthy dose of Brand New, mid-90s emo, and post-hardcore.

The thick wall of sound approach the band takes on tracks such as “Honestly Honest” and “Cosmonaut” makes them sound huge, almost like a post-hardcore version of early career Jimmy Eat World, a more indie oriented version of Hum, or a male fronted Holy Roman Empire. These large, building moments are when the band are at their best. Beyond the powerful sound they create, the atmosphere of these songs is also quite tangible, having a constrained and controlled mix of anger and angst under the surface.

However, when the band dabble a little too much into a more streamlined indie rock sound, they start to falter a bit. There isn’t the same sense of emotion in songs like “Call the Guards” when compared to the rest of the album. That’s not to say the less post-hardcore oriented tracks aren’t good, but they don’t have quite the same weight. It's almost as if they wanted some "safe" moments on the album to pepper the core of their focus.

Barring the slight misstep noted above, this is a potential-drenched debut album. There are not nearly enough bands trying to recapture the sounds of Jawbox or Sunny Day Real Estate, but Say Like the French Say are doing their damndest to bring that sound back, melding it with the Minneapolis indie rock sound and healthy overtones of post-hardcore.

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