Under Review: Darker My Love – Alive As You Are

It’s one thing to change your sound from album to album.  It’s another thing to completely abandon the styles your music previously explored.  Either change can be accomplished, though it takes some strong songwriting and musicianship to make the transition convincing and effective.  On the third LP, Alive As You Are, Los Angeles quintet Darker My Love clear away the psychedelic haze that defined their previous albums in favor of a cleaner, more jangly sound.  The rather drastic change is evident right from the start of the album, with “Backseat” bringing the first of a number of country-pop influences.  The Rickenbacker twang on the next song, “Split Minute,” does suggest some of the paisley-clad heroes of the 1960s, but the slick production remains jarring.  Rather than emulating an entire era, Darker My Love offer more specific homages to pioneering groups: The Kinks on “New America,” The Beatles on “Maple Day Getaway” and The Move on “18th Street Shuffle.”  Reverence can be perfectly acceptable in music, but the songs have to hold up as more than novel recreations of a better band’s creativity.

When the band tries to tackle the garage-revival scene, as they do on the plinking “Dear Author,” it comes off as a contender for the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, which wouldn’t be as bad if Darker My Love weren’t so desperate to make a ‘60s-sounding record.  On their last disc, 2, guitarist Tim Presley and bassist Rob Barbato traded songwriting and lead vocal duties seamlessly.  Alive As You Are finds little of their tunes sticking once the next has begun, and the back-and-forth from electric- to acoustic-based songs makes the album start and stop quite unappealingly.  Despite the weak songwriting this time around, the group’s harmonies and musical prowess give the album a touch of merit, but I would have sacrificed proficiency for a more solid set of tunes.  In the end, it’s clear to me why they didn’t call this album Awake As You Are.”

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~ by E. on September 1, 2010.

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