Thursday, May 22, 2008

Review: Can't Love, Can't Hurt

At some point along the way, someone must have decided that Augustana needed more piano. This probably was due, at least in part, to their successful single, "Boston," from All the Stars and Boulevards. Though "Boston" brought them some popular success, it was not the draw for me. I became a fan of their pop-rock sound from songs like "Bullets" and "Lonely People." Unfortunately, Can't Love, Can't Hurt, Augustana's latest release, is missing this sound. As I alluded to, the piano is a key (pun!) and prominent element on this record, much to the dismay (I imagine) of most Augustana fans.

"Hey Now" was an ominous start for me; it doesn't even halfway measure up to their demo of "Heart Shaped Gun (Hey Now)." I'm not huge into alt-country, but even I can tell "Heart Shaped Gun" is a vastly superior song (Kraig posted this demo some time ago, check it out). I can't emphasize enough that you should check out the "Heart Shaped Gun" demo, it may be better than anything you hear on the album. Song #2, "I Still Ain't Over You," is not the strongest lyrically (seriously Dan, "back and forth, and side to side/right ain't wrong if wrong ain't right," what were you thinking?), and sounds like a watered down track from All the Stars and Boulevards.

In the hole is the first single, "Sweet and Low," which, for lack of a better word, is tame. I liked it for the first few listens, but after a while the riff started to sound very monotonous and boring. "Twenty Years" sounds like a re-made "Boston" (or at least like a future-single that's going to be pushed as a 2nd "Boston"). It actually may be too slow in spots to be a pop single though (the listening public has a short attention span, this always must be taken into account). A couple filler tracks are stuffed right in the middle of the CD ("Meet You There" and "Fire"), with the latter being short, solo, and all piano. Perhaps I should be impressed with Dan Layus holding a note for a goodly amount of time, but it just didn't do it for me. I am a fan of the next song, "Either Way, I'll Break Your Heart Someday," for no reason in particular; it's some good alt-pop, I like it.

"Dust" has some of the most interesting elements and probably the most feeling to be heard on the album. It starts out sounding alt-country, but fades to rock as the song progresses. It's very good, I definitely recommend a listen. "Rest, Shame, Love" is downright mellow and almost doesn't fit with the rest of the album. The closeout number, "Where Love Went Wrong," is excellent. More piano (noticing a trend yet?), but this song is very well done; it may be my favorite song on the album.

[mp3] Either Way, I'll Break Your Heart Someday
[mp3] Dust
[mp3] Where Love Went Wrong

Overall, I just didn't hear the passion (or the rock) that I heard throughout All the Stars and Boulevards on this outing. It makes appearances in spots, but it just isn't sustained. I really wanted to like this album too. And the album does grow on you, but unfortunately not to the point that I think many are hoping for.

In Conclusion
-check out "Heart Shaped Gun"
-damn, why couldn't the album be 10 "Heart Shaped Guns"?
-loads of piano
-too much pop, not enough rock (or alt-country)

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J-H said...

Totally agree. I haven't given the album a full chance, but just from the samples and bits I've heard, I'm not impressed at all. I thought wasteland, stars and boulevards and lonely people were some hidden gems on the first album. I was hoping they'd stick to the rock-alt sound they had going, but maybe next time! Cheers ~

Kevin Brosky said...

Good review. As an Augustana fan, I have to agree I was pretty disappointed the way some of the songs turned out after hearing them live. Heart Shaped Gun to Hey Now has to be the biggest downgrade I think I've ever heard. I do really like Twenty Years, Fire and Rest, Shame, Love though. I think I would give it three stars too, however.

I just happen to stumble upon your blog when I was looking for the Air Stereo bonus track. The Damnwells are one of my all-time favorite bands. But you guys really have a great blog going on here and I appreciate the samples of bonus tracks. Keep up the good work and I'll definitely stop back.


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