3 out of 5
Label: Arctic Rodeo
Produced by: Carl Glanville (A-side, recorded by); Ray Martin (B-side, recorded by)
What happens when you take an enthusiastic, inventive, literate pop-rock band and put them through some make-or-break label woes? Answer: the diluted, within-the-borders sheen of New Rising Sons’ tracks on Demo To Demolition.
The re-presented tracks on Set It Right, the group’s intended debut that was shelved and then brought forward by Arctic Rodeo, have the sniff of some label intervention here and there, but otherwise showcase a batch of songs absolutely worthy of the signing hype they entailed: catchy but unique, blending solid hooks with an interesting jangle twang and some surprising post-something breakdowns and diversions. But whatever behind-the-scenes struggles that occurred had the band going back and laying down some further tracks to try to salvage a deal, and those are the first five songs on Demo To Demolition, once again via Arctic Rodeo.
As an addition to Set It Right, you can still hear the roots there: the layered guitar and bass interplay; propulsive drumming; and the general song construction is smart, and varied. But all of the edges have been shorn off. Kevin McGinnis’ twang is almost wholly absent, in favor of a more streamlined, harmonied, vocal presentation, and we’re definitely much closer to pop than rock, with not much heft on display, and the songs sticking to more predictable verse-chorus-verse structures. There’s passion, but it feels filtered, as though the group is doing their best but without that initial spark of inspiration. As such, McGinnis’ lyrics also feel a step behind – a bit more generic. The final track of these first five songs, Got To Be, is sort of an ironic, stereotypical, “we rock ’cause we gotta” song that feels like a last bid to prove something. Doubly ironic is that it is a good rock song – all of these are, by straightforward standards – “good” songs, but they’re polished and presentable, lacking the willingness to indulge in some swagger and attitude and doubt as displayed on Set It Right.
The other four tracks here are from the group’s first, self-titled EP, before all these troubles and very much showing that swagger and ‘tude and etc., but also showing how much having some pros like Ted Niceley and Andy Wallace at the boards helped to give that even more punch. However, the rawness of these tracks is energizing: yes, Niceley and Wallace shaped it, but the core passion was there, ready to break through.
As a standalone listen, the A-side is ho-hum and the B-side is promising; it’s more “useful” as a comparison to Set It Right to make going back and listening to that album even more rewarding.