Spaceship Days

Spaceship Days

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sometimes you win. Sometimes, well...

The smartest person I know ( I like to call her Mom) once told me: "You can't please everybody, so don't worry yourself by trying."

  Like all Mom advice, this piece was great. It made High School a breeze, and the transition to playing music for people who didn't know me from third base fairly smooth too.  Naturally, Spaceship Days has adopted this philosophy as well, and its proven to be a good thing.

 Now, as a band we've never been shy about sharing our good news. Its only fair that we share the not so good bits too.

Here's a piece. Hold on tight.


Artist: Spaceship Days
Album: Black Holes & Butterflies
Review by Ian Wise

Rating: 1 star (out of 5)
   North Carolina’s Spaceship Days have a long, storied past that shares an unfortunate lack of interest with their album Black Holes & Butterflies. The album shines with the slick production of similarly bland acts walking through the revolving door of one-hit-wonders on the adult contemporary charts. The songs are intentionally “catchy,” which makes them forgettable and barely distinguishable from songs penned for the current crop of Disney stars.

  The albums opener, “Hanging From the Satellites,” starts with an acoustic guitar augmented by a few delayed guitar tones. The first two lines give way to the perfectly timed kick-in for the drums, when the song goes “full force.” The melody is executed adequately from a singer with an obviously good vocal range. The singer is a strong tenor and his voice rings clearly with every note, and in the bridge he briefly goes into a falsetto without any hint of strain. The lyrics, however, provide no strength to the song, as they dance around any sort of concrete subject. The second verse explains “There's a beauty in the innocence/beneath the skin/bulletproof/raise the roof/now the show begins/never wanna’ stop/whatever it is that we got,” which effectively says nothing except that the band needed a second verse in the song. The guitars are slightly overdriven with a heavy dose of delay that floats between the stereo channels in a vaguely Wallflowers-esque style.

  “Stick on Stars” is, if nothing else, tailored for the radio with a heavy-handed bid for inclusion in the next Kidz Bop compilation. The melody has more in common with Hillary Duff than the alternative acts from which the band claims influence. The arrangement is of the bare-bones “verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge” school, and the production has all the correctly placed background vocals and two note guitar inflections, lost amongst the digital processing. The lyrics are, again, too vague to provide the listener with anything of value. Whatever the message the singer is trying to convey is lost in weak, half developed metaphors and clichés. 

  A ballad, “The Pain in Pretty Things” is substantially more interesting than most of the cuts on the disc. The string section is produced well and adds a much-needed sense of character to the song that is lost in most of the other arrangements. The build up is well done, but the steady drum beat after the first verse pulls the song back into a blander pop mood that could have been avoided if the band had decided to build on the concept introduced at the beginning of the song.

  “Ghost of California” is a hazy representation of subtle UK rock in the vein of Snow Patrol. The melody is still sugary sweet and the arrangement still staunchly safe, but the bouncy drum beat and warm bass tone behind the walking line is a welcome change from the rest of the album. The cut is less slick than the rest of the tracks, but its less standard delivery makes it the most likely candidate for a single.

  Spaceship Days may be poised for commercial success in a flash-in-the-pan sense. The songs are well produced, but they are meticulously crafted into a pre-designed molds and lack anything that makes them unique or memorable. Black Holes & Butterflies is so tailored to an audience of everyone that it lacks the ability to reach anyone, and makes it more like the dollar CD bin at your local record shop than a substantial artistic effort. The music is as much of a product as the CD is pressed on, and offers little in the way of consequence.

Review by Ian Wise 
Ian Wise is has been a contributor to American Music Press, Hails and Horns, and Razorcake.

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