The difference between a good album and a mediocre one is in the lyrics. This is also where the difference between a mediocre album and a bad one lies.
The Spill Canvas’ new album “One Fell Swoop” is not a good album, nor is it even a mediocre one.
What is so disappointing about “One Fell Swoop” is that it starts with such promise. The first 30 seconds of the album opener “Lust A Prima Vista” is reminiscent of Broken Social Scene’s album “You Forgot It In People.” However, as soon as guitarist and frontman Nick Thomas’ vocals kick in the song devolves to a more generic three-chord emo and pop-punk throb.
Thomas is described in One Eleven Records’ press package as “the singer songwriter and driving force behind the Spill Canvas.” His vocal stylings are in the classic emo mold, possessing that twang unique to emo regardless of where the singer lives. For this sound Thomas owes a great deal to his predecessors, Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba and Bright Eyes’ Connor Oberst.
Oberst and even Carrabba’s early works spoke earnestly of a collection of painful experiences relived at the microphone. Thomas, however, comes off insincere – an inexperienced child reading cheap poetry, trying a little too hard to prove his intensity.
Yet it isn’t Thomas’s vocal stylings that let down the band – it is the trite, juvenile lyrics he is singing. Whether in the guitar-heavy wailing in “Staplegunned” and “Break a Leg,” or the slower “Valiant” and “The Dutch Courage” – which might as well be a Dashboard b-side – the lyrical quality is uniformly laughable.
Thomas’s Livejournal lyrical approach seems predicated on combining over-used tropes and long-winded overdramatic stories with brutal clichs. The late album cut, “Bound to Happen,” features the opening lyric “I used to know you like the back of my hand, until today you held your place, now you’re shifting like the sand.”
The same insultingly unoriginal writing is present throughout the album, with no inspired writing to oppose it.
Now, at this point you may be thinking that this must be the worst album released this year. It isn’t. In fact, one of the defining features of “One Fell Swoop” is its forgetability. The songs and lyrics are so generic that they simply wash over you leaving no impact at all.
There are the rare moments of instrumental accomplishment such as the aforementioned opening and a few measures of intriguing melodies sprinkled across the album. There’s also the three-second kick at 2:36 on the opener, which was perhaps the most enjoyable part of the album.
On the whole, however, this is an entirely forgetable album, targeted at 14 year-old girls, which even they may find lacking in lyrical maturity.
Perhaps after this tour Nick Thomas should go back to South Dakota and listen to Wolf Parade’s “Apologies to the Queen Mary” and Modest Mouse’s “The Moon and Antarctica” to get a better understanding of how lyrics can make or break an album. Unfortunately in the case of “One Fell Swoop,” the latter is clearly evident.
The Spill Canvas will be playing at the Water Street Music Hall on Saturday, April 29, yes, D-Day, as part of the Road to Bamboozle tour. They will be headlining a show featuring a wide collection of perennial openers, such as Stretch-Arm-Strong, MewithoutYou, Blackout Pact and more. Doors will open at 2 p.m. and tickets are $16.
Dwyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.