Architects - Vice
Record Label: Anodyne Records
Release Date: May 13, 2008
Architects has got to be the most misleading band name I can think of. Going by the one word (sans the formula), you’d expect some kind of noise blast like Daughters, or maybe an indie sunshine-folk project like Annuals. But Architects are an Americana rock group out of Kansas City, Missouri. Maybe it’s me, but that name is just such an abstract sort of scientific title (okay, maybe I’m just thinking of The Matrix) that seems like it would be a European screamo band or something (Note: I looked it up, and one does exist).
One place where Architects aren’t misleading is on their album cover, which looks exactly like something that sounds like Bruce Springsteen. There’s a huge American flag and a dude standing in front of it with his back to the cover. If you thought a sound like this couldn’t work in 2008, you’re wrong – the influence of the Boss works pretty well with these guys, even 20 years after his heyday. The secret is to mix up the formula a little bit – why not toss in a punk vibe and a bit of hair metal throwback to keep things interesting?
If you’re keeping score at home, Bruce Springsteen plus punk pretty much equals Social Distortion, but Architects are by no means copycats. The Social Distortion drumbeat of “Pills” is undeniable, but the 80’s metal sing-along chorus of “Hard Times” and the load of artificial harmonics in “Jersey Shore” make it impossible to fully categorize the album. It’s kind of cheesy at times, but it’s supposed to be. It’s kind of simple at times, but these are fist-pumping power chord structures – simplicity seems to be the key. It’s easier to do the Miller Light swing to than something like Joan of Arc.
I bet your jaw is still gaping from when I said “80’s metal” above, so I’ll expand on that. See, these aren’t your Set Your Goals-type gang vocals. These are straight-up “We’re Not Gonna Take It” harmonies, complete with the big snare sound backing ‘em up. It’s all the mid 80’s guilty pleasure without the synth, all the fun without the mess – and somehow, it balances into the rest of the groups influences, which include Johnny Cash, The Clash, and whoever it was that inspired Andrew W.K. (because that chord progression in “Daddy Wore Black” sounds like it could have been lifted directly from I Get Wet).
Vices is a whole lot of fun – just like vices are a whole lot of fun. You’d never know without reading the lyric book (or actually thinking about what you’re singing along to) that its subject matter is pretty dark. Every song is about some dirty dealing, whether it be drugs, gambling or bad cops, and when these themes are taken into consideration, they paint a whole new picture. It’s still a lot of fun, and it’s a tick deeper than “I Wanna Rock."