One Trick Pony Phantom Pains

[Bright Orange; 2007]

Rating: 2/5

Styles: chamber rock, goth, mope rock, indie crooning, experimental rock
Others: Dead Science, Radiohead, Interpol, Guster, U2, Elbow, Coldplay

I guess this is what happens when you review unsolicited materials. You get something that, though undeniably lame, presses all your dark rock 'n' roll buttons. And One Trick Pony are bad. Phantom Pains has all the knee-jerk, heart-on-your-sleeve trademarks of emo without actually being emo. There's no end to the wince-inducing moments on this record, yet it's impeccably arranged and at times imbued with a stark and irresistible beauty (the bowl-you-over-gorgeous "City Heart"). There's just no escaping the prowess that is displayed even when the songwriting is obvious, monotonous, and tedious. So it's another charmer rife with bad aftertastes.

Instrumentation seems to be where One Trick Pony excel. There's a good deal of sweet moments of thickly layered, stripped-down orchestration. Unfortunately, during the stripped parts, all we are left with is the singer and his singing -- which, while impassioned -- ushers in some of the worst lyrics possible. Kind of like what Sparhawk's been doing lately in Low. We're talking really corny, overzealous lyrics that attain their power through inflection, but just plain stink on reflection. These guys have arrangement chops and keep their often-rote indie-rock progressions interesting enough with keenly placed sonic spillage. But there's just not much originality or restraint here.

One Trick Pony are, however, a new band, and Phantom Pains is only their debut album. They've got some good things going for them despite their glaring faults, and might be interesting to hear with a more stoic approach. Phantom Pains is far from a must-hear record, but it's got a lot of promise for something so iffy.

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