Saosin – In Search of Solid Ground
Release Date: September 8, 2009
Record Label: Virgin Records
It is not a well-kept secret that I was a bit enamored with Saosin’s debut LP. The timing of that record and the execution of it seemed damn near perfect at the time. The stars just kind of aligned for that release, and Saosin has been riding the wave ever since. And going back to listen to that self-titled gem now, I still stand by everything I said – the combination of soaring vocals, upper echelon musicianship, and flawless production made for a work deserving of its transcendence beyond the post-hardcore roots that spawned it. So here we are, three years later – has the band used its accomplishments and notoriety as a launchpad to create another killer record? Or is their sophomore effort a perfunctory exercise in simply going through the motions?
In Search of Solid Ground is, in a word, disappointing. Both on its own, and when compared to Saosin’s initial offering, their return falls short. The energy, tenacity, and overall brilliance that seemed to come so easily before now comes through in choked, wheezing clumps. And when those flourishes subside, listeners are once more left clinging to the mediocrity that plagues the majority of ISOSG.
Solid Ground starts off with a glimmer of promise, with “I Keep My Secrets Safe,” which would necessarily sound out of place on S/T. But besides Cove Reber’s shockingly adept screams in the track’s breakdown, the number is a bad omen for the rest of the volume. It follows a formula that will feel well-worn by album’s end – solid vocals, uninspired riffs, and a decent (yet largely unremarkable) chorus. “Deep Down” is sonically intriguing, but really more due to the track’s production than the song itself – an above average hook can’t absolve the tune from having no soul, and no bite. And by the time you reach “Why Can’t You See,” it is sad to say that letdowns become the norm, as the band digs itself into a rut with far too much restraint and an apparent disassociation from the art they should be pouring themselves into.
The lull lingers for a few other tired exercises until the group shows a little spark and edge with the kinetic “On My Own.” However, Saosin loses any karmic allowance with the lame mid-tempo “The Alarming Sound of a Still Small Voice” and “It’s All Over Now,” which is easily the cheesiest, worst song the band has ever penned and put to tape. One can only hope the latter was hatched from major label commercial machinations, because if not, it could be a dark harbinger of where these guys could be headed if given another chance.
It is a damn shame that Saosin followed up such a landmark debut with a blemished dud like In Search of Solid Ground. The overall work just sounds so incredibly forced and boring, it is hard to imagine it was any fun to make. And what might have been a consolation prize – the always stellar percussion of Alex Rodriguez – is pushed so far back in the mix or needlessly subdued, that A-Rod now has to be the most criminally underutilized drummer in the scene (if not all of rock). Outside of the stellar production, there aren’t really any high points that can salvage the record from its plan vanilla mire. Maybe the band is resting on its laurels and has gotten complacent, or bored, or even worse – maybe they have just lost it. I certainly hope this is not the case, but one-time fans aren’t going to forgive another pair of half-baked EPs and a live album that nobody wants before they are given proper correction for this lob. 2009 has taken Saosin from being one of the hottest bands in music to just another above-average radio-rock group. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait until 2012 for reimbursement.
In an interview, Cove said he was glad he didn't have to live up to Anthony Green's legacy on this album, and that there was no pressure to write "an album full of singles," like on the S/T. He was wrong; what came out of this lack of pressure was mediocrity. He essentially let go of all that made the last album great.
I also feel like the vocals and production deserve lower scores. Sorry Saosin; I'll still be a fan, though
got the album in the mail today 'cause it already comes out tomorrow here in germany. i agree with steve that it's not as creative as the self-titled release plus one could miss some of the damn catchy drum passages Rodriguez played on the first record in some occasions. there are definitely more radio rock songs on it, if you want to call them like that. still i think it's a solid record. in my opinion 75% or so. i guess they'll come back with a more mature third album :)
“It’s All Over Now,” which is easily the cheesiest, worst song the band has ever penned and put to tape.
Can you please explain, Steve? Is it just a cheeseball ballad or something?
From the songs I've heard already, I'm not that excited for this release. Especially after reading this review, I feel that a let-down is almost inevitable for me. It really is a shame because I was hoping for big things! I guess we shall see. Nice review, Steve.
Its no surprise to me that Saosin have gone down this route - The S/T album was evidence that most of the spark from 'Translating the Name' had disappeared. The drums on that EP were absolutely phenomenal, brilliantly produced and technically excellent - The only song on the album that had even a glimpse of the old drum style was 'Sleepers' (and even that was an anodyne version of what came before)
I know that most people focused on the change of vocalists as the biggest single difference between the two incarnations of Saosin, but personally, its been the death of the drums which has made the biggest impact.
Fuck man. This album was supposed to remind me of how much I loved Saosin. There's nothing more that I wanted other than having them have another successful album. But this is just terrible. None of the songs at all bring out any excitement.
The overall work just sounds so incredibly forced and boring, it is hard to imagine it was any fun to make.
This was how you sum up this record. I'm sorry Saosin, but this is just not good. Most disappointing album of the year.