Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Album Review: 3 Pill Morning - Never Look Back

A coupe of years ago, when I was writing somewhere else, I reviewed the debut album from a band called 3 Pill Morning. At the time, I viewed it as acceptable modern rock in the Nickelback vein, but called it mostly forgettable. Since that time, my proclamation has been proven to be accurate, as I had altogether forgotten about the band and their album when this sophomore release came across my desk. The name sounded familiar, so I dug through my archives, and found that yes indeed they were the same band I encountered back then. I'm always hopeful that with age will come wisdom, so I gladly hit the play button and gave the band another chance to impress me.

Right out of the gate, it's apparent the band intends to hit harder this time out. "Electric Chair" has one of those pulsing riffs that I can imagine creating havoc in a live show, in a good way. There's bounce and energy in it, and it balances nicely against the more melodic chorus. The hook is a bit flat and tame compared to where the instrumental is trying to take things, but it's a solid opening number that gets the job done.

The other thing that is clear early on is that 3 Pill Morning ascribes to the belief that the lower the tuning, the heavier the sound. I don't believe that for a second, but they drag the opening riff of "The Hunted" so far down that it might as well be played on nothing but basses, like Spinal Tap did as a parody. It's not the band's fault, but rock music needs to do away with this awful trend. The good news, for them, is that the song that follows is pretty darn good. It uses dynamics, and has some of the anthemic feeling that should go over well.

And it's in the chorus of that song, as well as "Out The Door", that I hear something familiar. Jeff Stebbins' vocals draw ever closer to sounding like Dexter Holland of The Offspring. It's not something I expected to hear, since it's a unique tone, but it does give 3 Pill Morning an identity that separates them from many of the rest of the bands I've heard lately that play this kind of modern rock. It's an acquired taste, but if you like it, that bit of familiarity is a welcome detail.

What strikes me as the album unfolds is that the band has grown quite a bit since their debut album. The songwriting is far more consistent this time around, as it seems every song sounds like it could be a single. That means that by the time you get to the end of these eleven songs, you've been inundated with hooks. Perversely, that focus on making every song so memorable might make the whole package a bit less so, because every song is mining the same territory. That doesn't, however, change the effectiveness of each song. 3 Pill Morning is writing some really good modern rock, and have effectively put all the Nickelback jokes you could make to bed. They're well beyond that now.

Ultimately, "Never Look Back" is a big step in the right direction for 3 Pill Morning. They sound like a better, more confident band than they did before. Sure, there are still ways in which the album could be punched up a bit, and I would like to see them use the sharpness that comes from a more normally tuned guitar, but their growth as songwriters is what is important here. If you've been disappointed that The Offspring have become an alternative rock band, and think they don't do it well, 3 Pill Morning is the answer. This sounds like what The Offspring have been shooting for, and "Never Look Back" should do just that, because this is a good album to start a new chapter.

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