REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/26/2008
Idiot Pilot (IP) is like a dish that you know will taste disastrous even without tasting it. The band has the audacity to create a seemingly unpalatable concoction that mixes emo (fringing on metal) with soulful singer/songwriter vocals and relies on this mantra for their style of music.
Like a lot of other pop-metal acts that comfortably juggle pop harmonies with post-grunge disharmony and create plush rock numbers, IP – with both its members Michael Harris and Daniel Anderson taking the helm behind the synths and the guitars – has a Linkin Park-like sense for putting together catchy pop-rock songs with flawless production work.
But IP is way too complicated for the pop-metal genre and way too strange for the bands that fall under it. For one, Harris snarls and screams like an emo dude with his hair on fire, but to contrast, also sings like a modest singer-songwriter, something that rocker guys would be ashamed to do. On “Planted In The Dark,” for instance, he starts the song with an unintelligible bloodcurdling scream, then follows it with some extremely sweet and dreamy vocals that demand an acoustic guitar and a banjo, before the song goes haywire again. It does take a while to get used to his panicked screams or to put them in perspective with his otherwise brilliant soulful singing, though.
Also, IP is way too dreamy for the average indie pop-metal bands on the radio. Their music is layered with lush synths that create ethereal soundscapes redolent of the shoegazer era. When the songs are not rocking out, they are beautiful, and exude a mysterious and gloomy aura. On “Recurring Dream” and “Theme From The Pit,” where IP maintains an ethereal mood throughout without bursting into moments of metal pandemonium, the band sounds like a counterpart of Lush or present-day Mercury Rev.
However, when IP does get into “metal” mode, its sound gets too weird for a top 40 pop-metal band. On “Good Luck” and “Elephant,” the songs dive into sonic soundscapes, where the guitars make funky – almost futuristic – noises that are as exciting as they are catchy. At times, the songs effortlessly step into the sacred realm of prog-metal, with the rhythm section getting uncontrollably racy, like on “
IP is not a very difficult band to like. Their music is accessible and has enough going on to keep it interesting, the production is great, and the vocals are exceptional. However, IP’s tendency of disrupting a perfect pop song by going out-and-out metal when it is absolutely uncalled for is a bit annoying at the beginning. After a few spins, though, this very quirk becomes the highlight of the band.