The Smile Case premiers with this collection of angsty bits in Angel Beach, reflecting the persona of a skinny-jean high school kind of band – and I usually wouldn’t have a problem with these kinds of bands, but these issues are so tired and so overdone that bands like these begin to feel a little routine. The tension could go hand-in-hand with the fact that this album was described by the band as “the perfect summer break-up album”. They started off with musician Ben Andress (having a solo career before expanding) until other members came on. I first look at the cover and I notice how childish and unprofessional it looks (but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and say it was made to look like it was done by a high school student to match the vibe it gives off). I also notice how light and dismal it comes off, as though it holds dreariness. It doesn’t really match what’s inside though.
If you’re in high school and you think your life is hard, this might be the album for you. It all starts with ‘Angel Beach High’ – the album’s namesake, sort of. The harsh vocals mismatch the tune, almost like the song isn’t really sure what it wants to be. The audience can already get the sense that this album is driven toward an adolescent audience, which isn’t a bad thing, but I’m far enough past this point to not give a damn anymore. The instrumentals are basic but the do the job pretty well. It’s a decent enough start to the album and settles easily into a modern rock genre that boys in tight-fitting clothing and piercings would weep over, but I was hoping for something a bit more nuanced. A song like this is only really good to someone if they buy into the angst of it.
It pans out and soon leads us to ‘Back Still Aches’. It would be sort of funny to call this song a pain in the back, but that would be too obvious – just like this song. It sounds a lot like the last one save for a few instrumental changes. In terms of this modern rock song, it doesn’t do much to stand above the others in its genre. This is the quintessential bridge song that is designed to be mediocre and connect a strong beginning with a more powerful ending. ‘Campfire Song’ is certainly more interesting because, for the first time, it feels like the band knows what it wants to do. It’s not spectacular, but it’s a step in the right direction. It could be that this “whatever man, I don’t care” kind of music doesn’t appeal to me (or anyone over the age of 15), but I would have probably loved this band in my teen years.
‘Critical’ is the next song on the album and wow, it is the perfect way to describe how I’m behaving towards this album. It’s obvious that the themes are largely focused around adolescents – but the outlook is pretty stereotypical and stresses the confused teen’s longing to be “cool” and “perfect” or at least understood and able to express themselves in some way. I’m talking more about the content of the music and the meaning behind the words rather than the musical aspect of it because all of these songs sound the same and it’s boring me.
By ‘Crowds’, I’ve gotten the feeling that this band is trying too hard to be Radiohead with a Skinny Puppy vocalist and some Nirvana-like qualities. This isn’t an absurd combination, but the music is boring despite great effort of the band members to pump up the listener with grating vocals, shredding the guitar, and “edgy” lyrics. ‘Don’t Tell Her’ is the same angsty mess and I don’t have much else to say of it.
I’m pretty sure ‘Giving Up vs. Making Up’ begins with the same notes and guitar rhythm as three other songs on this damn album (or at least pretty damn close). The self-indulgent vocalist gets under my skin as well, furiously belting out: “I like it, I like it”. Yeah? Well, I don’t. ‘Glen Meyer’ – along with a few other songs – sound like the Seattle scene in the ’90s (one of their biggest inspirations was Nirvana, so this could be another wannabe band that came out a few years too late). This fake edge is another issue I’m having with the band. The way they say “what the FUCK is an ATM-debit machine doing here?” makes it sound like saying “fuck” was a real milestone for the band.
‘Hard Promises’ is another seemingly half-assed song. Or maybe they worked very hard on it. Of course, I have to credit the band with the effort that it took to actually get together, learn instruments, apply melody, and get an album together with art, promotion, and everything (which is much more effort than it takes for me to tear down what they created by calling it “drivel”). I’m sure this band was inspired, but inspired to the point of trying to emulate. They would probably make for a better cover band.
If the name ‘I Wear a Curse’ doesn’t scream self-pitying emo drawl, then I don’t know what else does. Even the guys of My Chemical Romance would say “Jesus… cheer up, kid”. The instruments are a bit better in this song, but I don’t have much else to say about it. Mostly because all the singer does is scream at me by the end of this song. It finally dies down and ‘Sorry to Myself’ pipes up. From this, I weep for the future of modern rock almost as much as The Smile Case weeps for itself while they “cut to the bone, cut to the vein”.
Finally, ‘The Giving Tree’ sounds a little more upbeat, but probably because the band thinks that the way to end off on an album and leave a strong final impression is to yell at the audience. The louder they get, the more likely we’ll listen? Most likely, it’ll be shut off altogether. It’s a short album and a first show at what this band can do. I wish well for the band as a Canadian independent group, but I’m so sick of this kind of music. There’s slight variation amongst the tracks, but it’s not really enough to do it for me.
For more on The Smile Case, visit www.thesmilecase.com.