New Music Review: The Airborne Toxic Event; ‘All At Once’ (MUSIC VIDEO)
Bubbling slightly under the radar and owners of the coolest name in rock, the Airborne Toxic Event also suffered something of an identity crisis on their self-titled 2008 debut: that album was equal parts the Killers and Franz Ferdinand, the band wanted to create soaring anthems that bridged genres and make you dance. It was a grand experiment that didn’t quite get the recipe right, despite one hit (“Sometime Around Midnight”) that became U2’s unofficial entrance music during their recent tour.
It was good, if unfocused, but the Los Angeles rockers seem much more in their element on their follow-up, All At Once. Three years touring and recording has made the group tighter and more efficient; they blend their various influences (dance-pop, Springsteenian grandeur, and a little country stomp for good measure) much more efficiently this time around, blurring the lines between the genres to create a musical style that’s as infectious as it is unclassifiable.
Opener “All At Once,” for instance, blends skittish guitar riffs, singer Mikel Jollet’s Bowie-esque delivery, and some ooohh-oooohhhs in the background that could have just as easily come off U2’s Achtung, Baby! as a record in 2011. Lead single “Numb” has a tragic grandeur to it but also a polished sheen, like a less gritty version of the Gaslight Anthem. And down the line, on the wedding song “Doesn’t Mean a Thing,” Jolett spins a funny yarn about a shotgun wedding over thumping, old-timey country melodies layered with steady electric guitar that could have come off the Strokes record.
Problem is, with so much influence clattering around, the band still has trouble crafting an identity that’s entirely their own. Almost everything here sounds vaguely or blatantly familiar, probably because a million other bands, indie or otherwise, have probably done the exact same thing, and Jollet and his boys just decided to put it all together (the melody of “Doesn’t Mean a Thing” is a particularly tried-and-true one; ironically, ATE only switches it up at the hook and the song falls flat because of it).
Make no mistake: the record is nothing if not catchy (it plays like a hipster club’s dream soundtrack), and it’s definitely one of the more enjoyable albums of the year. But its lack of distinction among its peers holds it back: the Strokes album wasn’t particularly good, but there was at least an identity to it. All At Once plays kind of like one of those YouTube clips of great scenes from classic movies that somebody spliced together: you know what you’re getting, and it’s nice seeing all the good stuff in one place. And yeah, you’ll probably listen to it about five more times or so before it gets old. But there isn’t much by way of a big picture.
MUSIC VIDEO: The Airborne Toxic Event; “Numb”:
More Faster Music Reviews:
-Thao & Mira; Thao & Mira
-Foo Fighters; Wasting Light
-Paul Simon; So Beautiful or So What
-The Kills; Blood Pressures
-Hollywood Undead; American Nightmare
-Wiz Khalifa; Rolling Papers
-Britney Spears; Femme Fatale
-Chris Brown; F.A.M.E.
-Panic! At the Disco; Vices & Virtues
-The Strokes; Angles
- Travis Barker; Give the Drummer Some
-Lupe Fiasco; Lasers/Avril Lavigne; Goodbye Lullaby
-Dropkick Murphys; Going Out In Style
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