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Melee - Devils And Angels
|Melee - Devils And Angels|
Produced by: Howard Benson
Label: Warner Bros. Records
Released: April 3rd, 2007
Back in the late 1970's and early 1980's, white boys with soul were topping the charts. From Queen's falsetto-slinging frontman Freddie Mercury to ivory-tickler Billy Joel, there were a lot of young white boys taking pop-rock and putting it together with R&B/soul music.
Today, in our present time, it's just not quite the same. White guys with soul faded after about 1986, and they really haven't come back in the same shape or form since. Robbie Williams? No. Jason Mraz? Getting there. Justin Timberlake? Naturally.
Chris Cron? Whoa, whoa, whoa - who?
Yes, it's true - you can now add Orange County, California's Melee to the list of today's best band full of white boy soul power. The band - vocalist/pianist Cron, guitarist Ricky Sans, bassist Ryan Malloy and drummer Mike Nader - has a good easygoing sound going for them. Frontman Cron has a voice not far off from that of a Mr. Daryl Hall, the vocal talent for legendary pop-soul duo Hall & Oates. For those of you unfamiliar with H&O, they were two very dorky looking fellas from New York who topped the charts several times over the course of a decade with hits like "Maneater," "Sara Smile" and "You Make My Dreams Come True" (the latter of which is covered by this very band on this very album you're reading up on). You've probably heard them over the loudspeakers at your local supermarket or in any romantic comedy that involves 80's music. Needless to say, they were popular and still are during their reunion shows which always sell out.
On Melee's major-label debut for Warner Bros., entitled Devils And Angels, frontman Cron takes what was left of Daryl Hall's voice from the mid-80's and rallies the troops for a rather mesmerizing, old-school nostalgia trip for anyone who dug the sound combination of 1970's pop-rock with classic R&B/soul music. Put a dash of modern day alternative rock in there, and the result is a winning debut that unleashes not only vocal talent but guilty pleasure rock solos and dance numbers.
The album's first cut, and lead single, is the softer piano-based ballad "Built To Last," which almost comes across as a leftover Fray song. While Cron's vocals sound much akin to the previously mentioned Daryl Hall, he also has a tendency to sound like Waking Ashland vocalist Jonathan Jones, especially when he sings in a deeper tone. The only downside to this is some people might get the bands confused easily since both are on the rise and both are releasing albums in the same month.
"Rhythm of Rain," a song dedicated to victims in New Orleans recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, is a steadily-paced pop song that sounds a lot like it could have been written by Elvis Costello. Its acoustic intro sounds like something the Goo Goo Dolls might do, and musically it sounds more like a Goo Goo song. However, Cron channels his favorite singers throughout the record for a rather inspired sound. The danceable, radio-ready "Frequently Baby" seems like it was almost dropped from a 1984 heaven, full of echoed keyboards and lyrics that seem like they were written after viewing a Molly Ringwald filmfest.
"For A Lifetime" is one of the album's better songs. It takes the band member's real-life experiences of leaving college for music and transfers it into a nice song that is genuine in what it speaks of. "Everyday is a lifetime / Back to the beginning again," Cron sings, telling his story of finding peace in a life that doesn't seem so solid. "Drive Away," is one of the album's more rocking songs, with a bit of an orchestral background (somewhat similar to E.L.O.'s sound with synths) and soft drumming.
With heavy use of the piano throughout, many of the ballads have a tendency to run together. However, "Can't Hold On," is indeed a perfect song that could pull out the lighters and be reinterpreted well as a solo acoustic with just Cron. The female vocals near the end give it a very strong emotional feel as it comes to a close. Producer Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Less Than Jake) has done a very good job with amping up the band's sound from their previous effort, and makes Cron's vocals the center of attention. As displayed in the song "Imitation," Cron gets as close as possible to Daryl Hall's voice (and the duo's sound) without singing a song written by him. Soft whispers, a bouncy keyboard riff and mellow guitars cruise along on the track, but the song lacks lyrically and sounds a tad corny in its chorus, despite of how catchy it is.
Another radio-ready song is the well-paced epic-sounding "Love Carries On," which really could have been made into a longer, final track. It's one of the standout tracks on the disc. "She's Gonna Find Me Here" is the weakest point of the album, dragging on a bit too slow and bleeding together in with some of the other tracks before it. It doesn't offer the listener anything to make it worth remembering and kills the mood until the incredibly-catchy and energetic pop number "Biggest Mistake" comes on and shakes everything up. Namechecking Mitch Ryder and JetBlue Airlines, the song is one of the best guilty pleasures you'll find on an album this year. It's fun, it's carefree - it's everything you want in a pop-rock tune.
Once the peppy "You Got" hits, you're going to want to get on the dancefloor and bust a move to the merenge-soul power the song holds. It's nothing deep - it's a vocal playground for Chris Cron and is purely a fun treat that makes you desire a few dancesteps. The final song, an anthem of sorts, "Stand Up" is one of Cron's better songs lyrically. It's obvious that when he uses his notepad as a confessional, he writes more powerful, longer-lasting songs. On the next album, hopefully he will take advantage of this and will write an album full of songs like this and previously mentioned "For A Lifetime".
There is a hidden track after "Stand Up" ends. It is a cover of Hall & Oates' first hit, "You Make My Dreams Come True," which is so faithful to the original, that it's hard to tell the difference between the two. It just goes to show how much Cron sounds like a legendary vocal talent like Daryl Hall, and if Melee works on a few songwriting techniques to ensure they stand out from their piano playing peers, they could very well find themselves garnering a lot of success.
Devils And Angels is by no means bad or even mediocre; it's very fun to listen to. When the sun is out, there's nothing better than hearing white boys with a piano singing soul-pop. The problem is the nostalgia only goes so far these days, and some of the lyrical content needs to be upped a bit and not as cheeseball.
Like they sing on their first single, this is a band that is built to last. They just have a few kinks to work out to make sure the white man torch of soul can be handed down to the right men. Melee has what it takes to hang on to it.
Choice Cuts: "Stand Up," "For A Lifetime" and "Love Carries On"
10:45 AM on 04/13/07
Good, fair review! These guys locked me in with their live show on the current Early November tour. Chris has some amazing natural vocals.
12:50 PM on 04/13/07
hahah how the hell does this have a 110% member rating?
01:12 PM on 04/13/07
i gave this album a 95% rating and i actually lowered the user rating from 111% to 107% hahaha..
05:35 PM on 04/13/07
as we melt, let's make no noise.
Whoa, what the fuck is that user rating about?
PS: Awesome review.
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