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| NEW AMERICAN SAINT
Side Cho Records
2) New American Saint
3) Goodbye Almond Eyes
4) The Tin Man Gets His Heart
5) Treading Water
6) Bottle Marked: Caution
7) The Hard Eight
8) A Reason To Come Home Again
9) I Love You... Too
10) The Hammer & The Nail
11) Meghan Again
| I loved Tokyo Rose's 2003 release, Reinventing a Lost Art. Did anyone else? I don't see how you couldn't have--those Jersey boys can really write 'em. Heartfelt, catchy rock defines this band's sound, and I knew that fate wouldn't let them fade into obscurity after an only somewhat lauded label debut. Before we really get started, let me just say that this album is absolutely everything I expected it to be--a more mature repackaging of all the talents the band put to work on Reinventing.
The album starts with its best foot forward--"Spectacle" is an anthem single with fantastic hooks and melodies to die for. Powerful, emotional, and sonically addictive... this is the type of song that should be broadcast into outer space. If Martians like to mosh, they'd be all over the New American Saint.
After a strong opener is the title track, "New American Saint." While a lot of bands like to get a few songs into the record before showing off their diversity, Tokyo Rose takes you to the other end of the spectrum with a softer form of their style. The driven guitars and aggressive beats are still here, but taken down a step with gentler vocals. Take this time to really appreciate Ryan's lyrics and let every piece of guitar, bass, and drums blend together in your mind. They quicken the pace for the next song, "Goodbye Almond Eyes," but Tokyo Rose isn't a particularly confrontational punk band... instead of your typical "set your lawn on fire and then shout in your face" punk, they're more of a "stop by the house for some cookies and ginger snaps, oh hey, why don't we rock out a bit?" This song is made perfect through drum effects, brilliantly designed guitar that is used just enough, and dual vocals that play wonderfully with one another.
Track four starts out with an interesting mix of organ and bass, with some sound effects... an eerie entrance met with quiet, honest vocals that were truly meant to be taken in with closed eyes. This song is the sort of thing I definitely wasn't expecting. By the time they let the guitar drizzle in, you know it's not just another pop-punk slow song. They've tapped into a whole new kind of fuel on this one, and it's burning bright. It picks up a few minutes in, backed by piano and keeping up a real great classic rock feel. Heartfelt, unique, and even a bit spooky, this is a highlight.
By track five, "Treading Water," you start to realize something. Oh man. None of these songs sound the same. Where Reinventing a Lost Art could get a bit repetitive in its constant poppiness, every song on this album so far has been unique and completely apart from every other song on the album, while retaining the band's signature style. This feat is more admirable than you would think... hell, the Beatles took four albums to release a record as diverse as this. "Treading Water" is backed by acoustic chords to intelligent drum and bass, Ryan's singing slowed down just enough to keep the acoustic feel solid. Electric guitar additions give it a progressively full sound, and if you're not grooving at least a little in your chair listening to this, you're either dead or deserving of it. A very creative track, this one.
"Bottle Marked: Caution" thrusts away the preceeding soft sounds and pumps the rock back in. The hooks are as catchy as ever, but this time the melody is just a tiny bit fiercer--not hardcore riff fierce, but I could see a bunch of scene kids jumping awkwardly in a crowd to this one. "The Hard Eight" is a steady rock anthem for the anti-workaholic. A steady pattern of ups and downs keep this song interesting.
"A Reason To Come Home Again" features Fred Mascherino of Taking Back Sunday infamy doing back-up vocals on this one, but this isn't a fact the band has been toting much. Don't let perking your ears for evidence of Fred's work take your attention away from the rest of the song, because this is one of the best tracks on the album. Fred's vocalwork is emotional and adds a lot of depth to the song, but in doing so it achieves nothing Ryan hasn't been doing on the other ten tracks. Everything about this song makes it one of my favorite Tokyo Rose songs ever.
"I Love You... Too" is another acoustic one, and this time it goes all-out. The chords are darling, the piano is delicate and only adds what's necessary. As chimes and female backup vocals enter, this song only gets sweeter and sweeter. Could it get any sweeter than that first minute? Yeah, just keep listening... someone said "violins."
The penultimate track, "The Hammer & The Nail," has an interesting introduction with guitar lines reminiscent of a certain Anadivine song, but subtly clever basslines and some masterful drumming keeps a strong backing as Ryan sings all pretty-like. This song is an aggressive one and features some wicked awesome instrumental effects about 2:45 in. Fist-shakes are in order as the climax is reached.
"Meghan Again" ends the album on a different note... well, let's face it, every song has been on a different note. This song is almost jazzy, with some slide guitar craziness and a little bit of the electric piano love. It's like Tokyo Rose was given an entire warehouse full of instruments and effects to use for their album, and they felt the need to use every single one of them... beautifully. Ryan reaches the apex of his vocal beauty on this one, blowing away his performance on the other tracks without being self-indulgent about it. The track, and the album, ends quietly with no fireworks, fading off softly into silence.
All in all? A masterpiece. This band has gone from being another cookie from the Jersey cutter (mind you, an especially delicious one) to really defining style diversity for a pop-punk band. This album never gets boring because it so masterfully avoids sounding repetitive with tracks that really, truly stand out from one another. If I've ever overused the term "masterpiece"... this is the CD to which anything else labeled that must hold a candle to. Let New American Saint be a role model for any pop punk band out there looking to do something a little different... this CD does something a little different eleven times.