Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Album Review: One Less Reason - The Memories Uninvited

Mainstream rock bands get chewed up and spit out by the corporate system at an alarming rate. It seems like every few weeks, I'm hearing about another new band trying to break through the bubblegum ceiling that radio has on rock bands. They get signed, fail to hit it big right away, then fade into oblivion with enough regularity that it's hard to ever give them much attention. When you know they have no chance, putting that kind of effort into a band is stupid. One Less Reason is different. They had a record deal, but went out on their own, so they could control their own path. That's something that takes a lot of courage to do, and it definitely deserves respect. This is their sixth album, although it's my first time hearing about them. What do they have to offer?

The first thing to say is that "The Memories Uninvited" is a big, polished rock record. That might scare off people who believe that rock needs to be slightly raw and dirty to be any good, but I am not one of them. This album was mixed by Randy Staub, who has countless more impressive credits but is best known to me for mixing Tonic's "Head On Straight", which guarantees that the sound is going to be flawless. And indeed, the record sounds amazing from a production standpoint. Everything fits right into the levels they should, and there's enough depth in the mix to keep the record from sounding too loud for its own good. That's a solid start.

But what about the songs, you ask? Well, that is going to depend on how you feel about accessibility. The one thing I can say for sure about these songs is that, despite the hints of screams that pop up to give the songs color here and there, One Less Reason is driving right down the express lane towards the mainstream. That means there aren't huge riffs, or loads of attitude to make you want to cover yourself in flaming skull tattoos. But, that means that these songs have another quality that rock music needs; mass appeal.

It's hard to listen to this record and not find yourself tapping your foot along to the songs as the choruses keep coming. There's something that happens with well-written mainstream music that I can't quite explain, other than to say I know it when I hear it. These songs might be lacking just a hair in the ferocity of the attack, when it comes to what the stereotypical rock fan would want, but as the record plays there's no denying that this is better music than anything Nickelback and their copycats have put out in the last decade. The back to back numbers "Sometimes" and "Where Were You" are both hits in the making, with the kind of choruses that make me smile.

We're offered some diversity in these songs, to varying degrees of success. I quite enjoy "One Day", which is a Southern ballad that plays well into the band's strengths. I did not, however, enjoy "Time" nearly as much, which goes too far into the modern trend of building everything around drums and a rhythm track. Without the guitars, or any real rock elements to the song, it's the one that falls a bit flat. Honestly, it seems like a bit of a pander for radio play, which is ironic, since it's the last song I think would be successful in that format. It's still a good song, and it grew on me as I listened to the record more and more, but it doesn't match the ultra-high quality of the rest of the album.

But let's not dwell on that. One mediocre song on an eleven track album is about as good as you can hope for. The fact of the matter is that sandwiching that song are ten more tracks that set a strong standard for today's mainstream rock. If you turn on the radio and hear Five Finger Death Punch, Buckcherry, and the like, I don't know how you can't listen to One Less Reason and not think they're better in every way than the bands who are on top of the rock charts. As far as mainstream rock goes this year, "The Memories Uninvited" is as good as it gets.

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