I've written before about the democratization of the music industry, and how the internet has made it possible for bands who are worthy to make a name for themselves, regardless of having the backing of a label. I've been able to find and champion a few bands and artists over the course of my time writing about music who were finding their way on their own, but who were every bit as deserving of attention as the names we're all more familiar with. A few of them have even been picked up by labels since that time, just proving the point that a self-released record is no longer a scarlet letter that needs to be apologized for.
This Good Robot is one of those unsigned bands that makes a strong case for the beauty of taking music directly to the people. Opening with the title track, the band makes a statement with those first four minutes. Setting the scene with a far-away country ballad, the song bursts forth with tinkling pianos, swirling guitars, and a melody that blends punk and theater. Even the instrumental break is unexpected, with a sound that is anything but a distorted guitar wailing away on high notes. There's a fluid musicality to what is going on that makes the song sound like something fresh, something bigger than a little song sung by a little band.
“Bleed 'Em Dry” follows with a more standard punk aesthetic, strongly bringing AFI's glory years to mind. The guitar parts are deceptive with little bursts of syncopation, and the chorus explodes with energy. The experimentation and genre-hopping continues with “Super Spy”, which opens with stabbing strings that bring to mind the inevitable comparison to “Eleanor Rigby” (has a single sound ever been so identified by and with only one song?). The second verse has a swinging feel to it, and the chorus is pure, pompous melodic bliss. As far as opening salvos go, this trio is a strong shot.
From there, the album continues to spin in varying directions, never staying too long in one place. Some songs veer off into heavy punk energy, while others relax and bring the sensation of being a ballad without actually being one. Then you get to “Call The Police”, which twists the very way the band plays their instruments, shifting into a more intricate collection of guitar figures that feel unlike anything else on the record.
As odd as the album sounds like, on paper, there is a perfect comparison to be made here. This album sounds remarkably similar in spirit to last year's phenomenal debut from Incura. Like that album, this one is a mix of punk, hard rock, and theatrical sensibilities that come together in a weird, sticky blend of songwriting that is more multi-faceted than you would ever expect from a rock band. The refusal to adhere to the standard tropes is a smart move, because not only do the overblown moments stand out because of their cheesy awesomeness, they also make sure you're never going to confuse This Good Robot with another band. Like it or not, they have an identity that is unique to themselves, which is as important a fact as any band can establish, especially when they don't have the power of a label working to promote them.
And like the Incura album that I mentioned, my opinion of “The Light Is Taking Me To Pieces” is that it's an endearing, fun record that puts a smile on my face. The world already has more than enough music that is designed to make you feel terrible. Sometimes you want music to make you feel good, and This Good Robot can definitely do that.