Spaceship Days

Spaceship Days

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Fresh From the Mouth of the Horse : A "Black Holes and Butterflies" Review

Here is another review for "Black Holes and Butterflies" 

Artist:  Spaceship Days
Album:  Black Holes and Butterflies
Review by Bryan Rodgers
Rating:  3.5 Stars (out of 5)

Black Holes and Butterflies, the debut full length album from Spaceship Days, is instantly striking in a number of ways.  From the first moment of the opening track, “Hanging From the Satellites,” the stellar production of the album is evident.  As the tuneful, hook-heavy track moves forward, the trio reveals itself to be a formidable pop rock song writing force.  Even listeners who may dislike the band’s unapologetically radio-friendly style will have to admit that the young band has a gift for hitting all the right spots when it comes to making songs that have mass appeal.  Whether or not their aspirations are commercially motivated, their unrelenting catchiness and sensitive songwriting proves to be both their strongest point and their undoing during the course of the album.   

Black Holes and Butterflies is pop honey designed to catch teenaged flies, and it will likely attract more than its fair share.  But one twenty-something’s honey is another’s vinegar.  Spaceship Days walk the line between moderately masculine and cloyingly emotional, and that’s a divisive path among music fans.  It’s reminiscent of the situation of Coldplay, whose megahit “In My Place” is subtly mimed in Spaceship Days’ own “Ghost of California.”  Hating Coldplay has become as popular as liking them, and Spaceship Days would possibly inspire a similar kind of phenomenon if given their shot at stardom.  The similarities don’t end there.  There are enough hand-wringing choruses, massive major key hooks, and dramatic interludes on Black Holes and Butterflies to sink whatever ship Chris Martin captains when he wears those silly coats.

It’s pretty clear who the band wants on their side, and that’s the ladies.  When Matt Mocharnuk’s impassioned, heavily effected vocals crash over the dense, catchy melodies provided by bassist Chuck Cox and multi-instrumentalist Greg Torsone, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine this sound pumping from a few thousand dorm rooms and first cars.  Even when the vibe gets a bit too sugary, as it does during the “doot doot doos” in “Shadow Walking,” you still feel obligated to forgive the band.  After all, they took their name from a lyric in a Catherine Wheel song, and you can occasionally hear the influence of 1990’s alternative rock throughout the album.   For a fairly straightforward pop rock album, there’s a decent amount of diversity.  The earnest lyrics and elegant instrumentation found between the choruses and crannies of songs like “Pain in Pretty Things” brings the band’s fellow North Carolinian Ben Folds to mind, and there’s a considerable amount of college radio rock influence, such as the acoustic roots rock sound of “A Little Extraordinary.”

It’s a tidy listen, clocking in at around 40 minutes, but if you’re a more, shall we say, “experienced” music fan, it’s likely that one would return for anything other than the tastiest morsels.  There are moments where the band just sounds too watered down and self-aware.  The shockingly trite “My Life With You” sounds like it was written with the intention of becoming a wedding staple, a Hallmark card set to music.  Mocharnuk frequently treads into lovey-dovey territory and well into the realm of self-centeredness.  There are few diversions from the topic of relationships and the like.  “Tell me where you think we went wrong/I would love to know,” he pleads in “A Little Extraordinary,” one of the moodier tracks.  He knows his audience and he knows them well.  Whether or not the band set out to make an album full of songs that appeal mostly to young females and the smitten boys that desire them, they’ve crafted a disc full of situations tailor made for that demographic.  Want melodramatic woe-is-me pop for those with first world problems?  Try “Big World Pop Star,” where Mocharnuk muses about feeling like he’s in a movie, or “Something Perfect,” where he compares his lover’s eyes to stars.

 Spaceship Days do what they do incredibly well, but there’s no getting past the fact that this album’s musical and lyrical merit is founded on appealing to the lowest common denominator.  It’s safe, inoffensive pop that could easily take the place of any number of the temporary superstar acts making money in today’s music business, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if this band can manage to do that.

Review by Bryan Rodgers
Bryan Rodgers has been in the music business for 15 years--as a writer, DJ, and A&R Rep


  1. "Matt Mocharnuk’s impassioned, *heavily effected* vocals "

    What effects? I don't hear any vocal effects.