Review by Chris Lockett: Starting with Coldplay in the early 2000s, the music industry has seen a huge return to prominence for European Alternative Pop-Rock bands. Tons of new bands are cashing in on this particular trend of music and making subpar records that only seem to appeal to diehard fans of the genre. However, there is a new group that’s been making waves, being given the title of “England’s hottest new band” by the Huffington Post. The band, Morning Parade, has been receiving a lot of attention overseas, as well as here in the States, for their self-titled debut. But, has all of the hype been for naught, or is this a band that’s worth its weight in publicity gold? Hit the jump to find out!
The band’s debut, self-titled album kicks off with “Blue Winter”, an upbeat track that, as its name so ironically implies, gives off the feeling of a very snowy, cold winter. This song sets the stage for the rest of the album in terms of theme, as the whole album contains a very cold wintery feel. It’s not some highly original soundscape (especially in this particular genre), however the band is able to pull it off and make it sound a whole lot more natural than almost any other band that I’ve heard. The reason? Synths. It all comes down to how a band like this uses synths. See, whereas most bands within this genre tend to rely heavily on synthesizers, (laying them on thickly in order to mask the fact that they don’t actually have a whole lot of instrumental talent), Morning Parade likes to use a lot of background synths, putting lead singer Steve Sparrow’s vocals, as well as the band’s instruments at the forefront. It’s a super risky move to make, but it works exceptionally well here and really speaks volumes as to how talented this band actually is.
Aside from album opener “Blue Winter”, there are a number of other songs that show off the band’s talents. The album’s third track, (and my personal favorite), “Carousel” goes from being calm and mellow during the verses, to soaring and epic during the chorus within seconds. The track is very guitar driven, as is another standout track, “Under The Stars”, which manages to combine upbeat, fast-paced guitars with Sparrow’s calming vocals without sounding like it’s contradicting itself.
Other album highlights include the slow-burning “Running Down The Aisle”, which features some beautiful synths, and contains one hell of a guitar solo towards the end. Also of note, is the catchy, U2-esque track “Close To Your Heart”, the echoing guitar work of which is reminiscent to The Edge’s work on U2’s “New Years Day”.
Lyrically, the album is a poetic one. Lines like “Wasting time, just hanging around/ Skimming stones/ I’m casting an eye to see the mystery/ of where the ripples flow” from “Blue Winter” or “Twenty seconds on the backlog, overtime/Twenty seconds ‘til we’re swept by the tide/We’re treading water in the dead of night/And we’re speechless, just speechless” from “Speechless”, are perfect examples of the beautiful, atmospheric nature of Steve Sparrow’s lyrics, and how they intertwine seamlessly with the band’s sound.
Now, although this album has a lot going for it, there are a few shortcomings that prevent it from being a complete homerun. For one, there are quite a few filler tracks. Songs like “Us & Ourselves”, “Half Litre Bottle”, “Monday Morning”, and “Born Alone” sound like lesser versions of other, much better songs on the album, and only serve to draw out the listening experience. Luckily, these songs are rarely back to back, meaning that you can have hope that the next track will probably be better. Also of note, is the fact that Morning Parade isn’t doing something that hasn’t been done before. There are quite a few bands out there that sound very similar in a multitude of ways, and there will undoubtedly be comparisons to U2, Phoenix, “A Rush of Blood to the Head” era Coldplay, as well as a multitude of other bands.
The Bottom Line: While not being anything incredible or overly unique, Morning Parade has crafted a very good debut album that, while containing a few too many filler tracks for my liking, also has some excellent tracks that manage to blow the band’s contemporaries out of the water. They have proven themselves to be a band that has no qualms about wearing their influences on their sleeves, and that’s fine for an up and coming band. However, I am hopeful/excited to see if the band is able to evolve into a sound that is completely their own.