Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Higher - On Fire

Band: The Higher
Album: On Fire
Release Date: March 6, 2007
Label: Epitaph

The Higher’s debut on Epitaph, “On Fire,” isn’t exactly what I would call a stellar performance. While catchy hooks abound, the sound of the album is not quite as cohesive as I would have expected. While I largely enjoyed their debut full-length, “Histrionics,” I just can’t say the same in this case.

The opening track, “Insurance” is exactly what I expected Fall Out Boy’s latest, “Infinity on High” to be. If "This Ain't A Scene, It’s an Arms Race" sounded like it might be at home among the likings of the Backstreet Boys, “Insurance” is definitely B-side material for NSYNC’s “Celebrity,” which featured one of their later hits, “Dirty Pop.”

“On Fire” partially marks a departure from the generic emo-rock of “Histrionics” to a electronic, pop-driven sound. “Guts” fits the barebones, music by numbers, style of verse-chorus-verse. “Rock My Body” is the first of three re-recorded songs from “Histrionics.” It remains virtually the same, with some introduction of dance beats. “Weapons Wired” is one of the stronger showings on this album. Again, like “Insurance” it offers up a poppy sound, but it’s done well. The song packs a little bit of a punch; with the focus more set on the guitar rather than synthesized beats. However, the new dance sound, isn’t maintained for the entirety of the release, which is one of the major disappointments.

The fifth track, “Histrionics” is the second re-record from their debut. It was by and far my favorite song from their 2005 work. It was short and catchy and has a heartfelt quality to it. Unfortunately, this re-record doesn't provide much worthwhile innovation; again it's more of an electronic remix. The song doesn't lose all of it's worth in my eyes, but it doesn't seem to have the same flow. One of it’s best aspects, for me, is the handclap, I don’t know how many times I’ll end up declaring my love for this quaint little addition, but I’m quite sure it’s one of my favorites.

“Movement” reminds me immediately of the 1999 hit “Slide” from The Goo Goo Dolls. However, once the song gets past this reminiscent introduction, it reveals that it has none of the lasting power of that hit. This track marks a point in this release, that starts to lose my interest and starts to betray the initial feeling of the album. Slowly the songs slow down and lose their dancability (I know that’s not a word, but you know what I mean by it). “On Fire” started out with a strong upbeat pop essence, but slowly this fades away and all that is left is run of the mill instrumentation and Seth Trotter’s flat vocals. “Can Anyone Really Love Young,” “Darkpop,” “DARE,” and “Our Movie Rules” all seem to fit in this category, in my eyes. “Darkpop” manages to keep up the beat a bit, but overall the song is forgettable.

Thankfully, “31 Floors” is full of repeatable and catchy hooks. I’d say its one of the last gems of the disc (maybe ‘gem’ is too much, cubic zirconium might be more fitting). Either way, it’s got a decent amount going for it, and provides some incentive to make it to the end of the CD. Finally, after “Our Movie Rules” comes the Patrick Stump remix of “Pace Yourself.” This is track closes the disc, and is the final adaptation from “Histrionics.” It is, however, slightly ironic, seeing as the main lyric says that, “you can’t write the same song over again,” even though The Higher, or perhaps the folks over at Epitaph, saw it fit to re-record three old tracks.

After just less than one minute of silence, at the end of “Pace Yourself,” comes the hidden track of the album. I think I’ve mentioned before, that I am really not much of a fan of this practice. I just don’t care that much about part of a song, that a band decided didn’t warrant it’s own track. Plus, when I’m listening to music while doing something else; it’s just annoying when there’s undue silence. Anyways, the hidden track is no more interesting than any other track on the CD and it’s absolutely drenched with obvious and partially obnoxious sexual references, not exactly a lyrical jewel.

Overall, this isn’t much of a follow up to the enjoyable “Histrionics.” As the CD began I was actually kind of excited to see where they would go with their new dance-pop sound. Unfortunately, by about halfway through the disc it became apparent that it wasn’t a full shift and they were stuck right back in the rut of their generic, almost sub-par, sound. I would say that this CD isn’t for either, fans of The [old] Higher, or for those in love with the dance sounds of bands like Head Automatica or Panic! At the Disco, it does, however, a few songs worthy of your time.

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