Click to hear: “Fun Jungle Playground”
In the Audience is a scrappy young duo that makes poppy/noisy indie-rock. Their debut full-length, What Lives, hews closely to the mainstream modern-rock radio sound thousands of other bands have adopted, but there are encouraging signs these guys can break that mold and produce a great album. Someday.
The talent’s there. Singer/guitarist Jordan Stowell and drummer/backing vocalist Cam Jones work the songs out together, then bring in a cast of supporting players to flesh ’em out. Stowell’s got a fine voice that brings Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon) to mind.
The four poppier songs on this eight-track release come first. “American Names” is pretty catchy, but again, you’ve heard it before. Its plodding ending is the kind of mistake young bands are prone to make. (Lop off the last minute or so, fellas. The point’s been made.)
“For Girls” has shades of alt-country, but not enough to keep it from sucking. “For Courtney” sounds like an Old 97s song with an emo bridge (not bad, actually). And “Shine” is the obligatory up-beat acoustic number. Feel free to skip it.
Things get more interesting on the second half. The songs get longer and louder. The compositions take more chances. They don’t always succeed, but the thought counts.
“Fun Jungle Playground,” the best song here, has a strong melody, some unpredictable stops and starts, and a great shredding outro. I think the guys got lost in the process of putting the shapeless “Mr. Manager” together, but “Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament” builds nicely, breaks down and climbs another peak to good effect. Sadly, the epic closer, “Not Alone,” is a tiresome 10 minutes you won’t want to experience twice.
My advice: keep the noise, cut the cheese. You’re onto something. Rock onward, young men.
— Chris Busby
In the Audience plays a CD release show on Sat., Oct. 16, at Empire Dine and Dance, 575 Congress St., Portland, at 9 p.m., with Pomegranates. Tix: $6 (21+). For more on the band, visit nicefriends.squarespace.com.