For every band who has an original sound, I can name a dozen others who gracefully mix their influences into their own compositions - as well as hundreds of bands who rip their mentors off blind.
The alternative quartet Tonic falls in the second group - their influences are as varied as the songs on their debut disc Lemon Parade - and while the disc has some excellent moments, it may have been better to focus on one or two influences instead of treating their first album like an encyclopedia.
The first single "Open Up Your Eyes" is a track that, quite frankly, is like no other I've heard in some time. Immediately catchy with a great riff-based chorus, vocalist/guitarist Emerson Hart leads this band into some exciting, uncharted waters. The guitar work of Hart and Jeff Russo, and the solid backbone of bassist Dan Rothchild and drummer Kevin Shepard provide the listener with one intense trip that ends way too soon.
The path continues with the second single, "If You Could Only See," a song which is both enchanting and entertaining. The vocal harmonies this band produces are quite touching at times, and this song is one I just don't get tired of hearing on the radio.
If only the remainder of Lemon Parade were like this. Once you get past the original sounds, the influences sometimes become overpowering. At one time or another, I heard The Beatles, Free, Led Zeppelin and October Project (the last one on the track "Celtic Aggression," one of the best on the album) - and those are the ones I can remember throwing this review together minutes before deadline. The uses of the influences are not overbearing nor are they rip-offs (which is a relief), but the album becomes mired down quickly, and it soon becomes difficult to get through the CD in one sitting.
This is not an album you want to listen to when you're in a foul mood, the singles being notable exceptions. Maybe this was part of the problem - I gave the album a final listen this evening, and my mood could only be described as "pissed-off depressed." When you're like this, songs like "My Old Man" become just a tad too dreary to listen to. Others like the title track reveal themselves to be quite beautiful, but they won't help pick up your mood. (The title track actually makes me think of Mrs. Thelen and her life before we met.)
It's not that Tonic didn't try or failed. They are a very talented band who know not only how to draw on their influences but also how to write solid, interesting songs. They enlisted the help of ace producer Jack Joseph Puig (who did wonders for the Black Crowes on their criminally overlooked Three Snakes And One Charm), though I'm not always convinced he was the best choice for this band. They have fought the difficult battle of getting on the airwaves, and they've had decent success in that area.
If anything, Lemon Parade may be a tad too serious. Sure, cuts like "Mountain" and "Mr. Golden Deal" are good, but the band may need to take a small step back and not dwell too much on the cerebral. (Not that I want them to become as lightweight as New Kids On The block - I don't mind being challenged to think when I listen to an album, but I don't feel like taking the entrance exam for Mensa.)
Despite being a bit weighty, Lemon Parade is a good effort from an exciting young band - one who, I think still have their best moments ahead of them.