Independent release, 2008
REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/06/2009
It’s nice to know that, while the earthy low-fi indie singer-songwriter vibe remains ascendant, there are still indie acts out there whose personal groove is all about hitting you with The Big Riff.
Serial Thrillers is an album I reviewed by accident, plopping it in and letting it ride through my subconscious for half an hour or more before I really sat up and took notice. No doubt one of the explanations for that is the production – crystal-clear enough to earn the title of both blessing and curse – of Anthony J. Resta (Collective Soul, Duran Duran, Shawn Mullins, Perry Farrell). Whether the songs are post-grunge guitar-heavy alt-rock (“The Cycle”) or more introspective and spacious fare (“Forgive”), there isn’t a molecule of sound out of place.
Much of the credit/blame there must also go to ST mastermind vocalist/guitarist/bassist/chief songwriter Paul Ortolano, whose earnest, appealing melodies remind me a bit of Second Dan in both their moody duality and their fundamental expansiveness. To their credit, Ortolano, Resta and drummer Stephen Clements throw some interesting electronic textures into otherwise by-the-numbers cuts like “Miss Black & White” and “If Ever,” which help rescue them from the rather cliché-heavy lyrics.
Those quibbles aside, though, let’s be clear -- Serial Thrillers has appeal, or I wouldn’t have made it this far. The album’s kickoff one-two punch of “Defied” and “Unattractive” are engaging and well-crafted, transitioning seamlessly from breezy pop melodicism to arena-sized guitar muscle. There’s more goodness in the late going as well, as the steady-as-she-goes “Bolder” and rather Rush-divided-by-Tool closer “Rex” underscore Ortolano, Clements and Resta’s gift for crafting tasty big-sky guitar-pop.
Serial Thrillers raises expectations with a name that’s only somewhat justified by the end result. That said, there’s a core of melodic appeal that’s undeniable. A little less calculation and a little more true grit and Serial Thrillers could be onto something big.