It might be said from the get-go: This is a fun album to listen to, despite some of the heavier topics it broaches. Some believe that a lighthearted, almost comedic approach to raising awareness about such topics dilutes the importance of the message. But it seems that each approach has its time and place, and should be used conjointly in any awareness-raising effort.
For example, the sad state of affairs in the music industry has been brought up in angry songs that rage at it all. Then there are the songs who use the very formulas they are contesting to raise awareness about its emptiness – a Trojan horse of sorts. And then there are those who use this formula but also add their own twist to it; this is where Latimer House comes in.
All the Rage is the brainchild of the four-piece, Prague-based indie pop band. They use a simple, basic, yet witty songwriting style, combine it with some basic chords, add a few twists here and there, and voilà! It’s an intriguing album that straddles the line between overheard pop music and clever ploy to raise awareness. Band members Joe Cook (guitar, vocals), Anar Yuufov (keyboards, backing vocals), Jiri Kominek (drums, percussion), and Michael Jetton (bass) sound at times like the Beach Boys; at other times, they sound like R.E.M.. They always sound upbeat, even in their slower songs, leaving an aftertaste of contentment once the album reaches its last note.
There is nothing spectacular, unique, or groundbreaking in All the Rage. It’s a safe album that enjoys dipping into all kinds of different styles and genres. This is probably due to the fact that it was created by members from Canada, the U.K., Azerbaijan, and the U.S., who brought to the table a love for all kinds of music from the 1960s and 1970s. This includes pop, rock, funk, folk, new wave, and even obscure experimental rock, jazz, and some contemporary alternative sounds. If I had to classify this 10-track album under one genre though, it would be Britpop, because of Cook’s very British accent.
The first song, “This Is Pop”, unabashedly matches the song’s title from the very first, upbeat, uptempo, and sunny notes. The track captures the energy of the Beach Boys in its catchy chorus and upbeat, bouncy melody. But while it might seem that the song is all sunshine and happiness, one only has to focus on the lyrics to see its darker side: “Jack’s colors are fading and under strain”, and “Forty six million on food stamps in the land of the make-it-big”. Turns out that this song is a commentary on the encouraged passivity of audiences, as they turn away from that which is decaying their countries to lose themselves in the world of pop in a case of the ostrich putting its head deep in the ground.
The sound of a match being lit opens up “Burn”, the album’s second track, setting off in my mind the theme song to Mission Impossible. Instead, a very Americana sound featuring violins and cellos creates a contrasting upbeat, yet brooding song. Lasting a little over five minutes, it gives time to the listener to appreciate the coming together of these different sounds. The following, infectious “Eye Can See” is just as optimistic, without the brooding quality of its predecessor, with a guitar-driven, simple melody featuring some well-placed and well executed guitar scratching.
The fourth track, the groovy “Open Your Heart”, brings together string and brass instruments with some background sound effects that catch one’s attention. Unfortunately, the repetitive last minute of the song, in which we are told again and again to “Follow your heart/Open your heart” made this song go from catchy to annoying. In subsequent listens, I would simply jump to the next song at the -1:00 mark. A mandolin joins the cast in the band’s fifth song, the breezy, lighthearted, catchy, guitar-centered “Birdcage Walk”. “Red Heart Sequin Blues” is just as lively but in a different, foot-thumping, piano-stamping, harmonica-peppered kind of way; its catchy chorus brings to mind the band playing this song in a bar filled with partygoers happily singing along.
With “Your Love”, the band slows things down while stepping into the reverb-heavy 1980s, adding a dreamy, almost hypnotic quality to a song one wouldn’t be surprised to hear played in a smoky lounge. The singing is a soft whisper, a sharp contrast to the previous songs where the lyrics were offered in a straightforward way. The funky, piano-driven “Love’s Undermined” bring the tempo right back up. The melody is simple again, but there are a couple of layers that take a few listens for the untrained ear to uncover. The energy is upped another level with the penultimate “Splash!”, a song with some serious summer appeal, partly due to the guest appearance of a tambourine. It’s the song you might want to put on while driving to the beach (or, for that matter, to the pool).
The closing “Bubblegum” comes full circle with yet another commentary on the obsession of the masses with the lives of the rich and famous. The drum-based, soft rock-tinged tune provides a Stepford Wives-like feeling of obsession with outward perfection, the perfect shell for the ironic chorus: “We all want to be like you/…/You’re happy, rich and free/You’re what we want to be/See you on the stage and screen/So beautiful and clean/So happy, rich and free/You’re what we want to be”.
The mixture of genres makes this album an interesting listen. While it doesn’t really go into any new territory, it is still worth a listen, be it only to see what Latimer House did with some very familiar sounds. The lyrics are simple, but at the same time, convey important messages ones would find much satisfaction reflecting on. At the very least, this enjoyable record could be a good album to play on a summer evening. More information about the band is available on their official website, on SoundCloud, or on Bandcamp.
First published here on Blogcritics.