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Something Corporate hope for mainstream success

BY TONY DING
Daily Arts Writer
Published June 30, 2002

They're lauded as being "nice boys," for being "sentimental," and the pop-music world just can't get enough of them all of a sudden. Emo, short for "emotional" rock, is the toddler-aged genre sweeping the industry with a fever and momentum unseen since the early, pop-punk infused 1990s. Now, it's all about Jimmy Eat World, or Saves the Day, or Dashboard Confessional. A brand new potty-trained prodigy from Orange County, Calif. has risen to the occasion: The quintet gentlemen of Something Corporate.

In only their fourth year together as a band, Something Corporate burst onto the scene with their first EP, Audioboxer. This May, the surprisingly successful band released their full-length debut album Leaving Through the Window. Led by 19-year-old pianist Andrew McMahon, SC accomplishes a rarely-practiced harmony between the elegant, soothing flow of a piano, and the fast-paced, guitar-riffing rock orchestra inherent in today's pop-rock. McMahon's finger-work is sensational, melding unconscientiously with the amplified strings and drums or as a pleasant solo in the most potent transitions of a song. McMahon is also the main heartthrob vocal behind SC's addictive (and mostly McMahon-penned) lyrics. Fourteen songs grace Leaving, with "I Want to Save You" serving as an unflattering, but adequate opener. It is evident from this first song that SC has been geared toward a pop-radio/MTV audience. Hell, the whole album reeks of a capitalistic ploy to sell millions of albums to fad-hungry teen girls and "sensitive" boys - ironic given the band's "brand-name."

"Hurricane" is another up-tempo, melodic, yet quasi-punk number that enjoys a healthy interjection of 88 keys. Its lyrics, incidentally, were written not by McMahon, but the work of guitarist Josh Partington. A song on this album that you may have already caught on the radio is "If yoU C Jordan." It's a populicious anthem, that in and of itself, led SC to where it is today. The awkwardly unsettling lyrics make you play and replay the song just to see if you've heard it right, ending in nothing but confusion over what the story is about or where odd words fit in. Is McMahon's talking about a hated "bully" as portrayed in the music video, where they fought over a girl? Or could it be a secret confessional about another sort of bad relationship the guy isn't sharing ...

Compared to the unreleased songs SC fans have heard over the years and those from their self-released sampler Ready...Break, the only "traditional" SC song on this album is "Cavanaugh Park," which is pretty much a shorter, more bearable version of the not-included 10-minute long "Constantine." It's a pity that Something Corporate have honed their sound to a more punk rock-oriented feel in this debut, apparently to fit in with their Drive-Thru label. They've also acquired a Creed-ish (cringe) bearing in a few slips, such as "Not What it Seems," where McMahon cries and shouts in such theatrics. This may be due to stylistic tweaks by Leaving's producer, Jim Wirt, who mastered releases for Incubus and Hoobastank.

Something Corporate's emo beginnings emerge toward the end of the album, where "You're Gone" is indistinguishable from something other popular emo groups like Saves the Day might have produced. And oh my, talk about going out without a bang: The last song on the album, "Globes and Maps," can serve as treatment for insomniacs. Its piano solo clocks in at almost five minutes, with each passing minute snuffing the drowsy finale of the album.

So, emo is not for everyone, and Something Corporate knows that. None of the album's songs come under the 3.3-minute de-facto standard for mainstream, fast-action pop-punk. The failings for this album, despite its overall quality, is the unnecessary efforts SC went through to diversify their sound. It has too much pop and too little genuine emo. Their self-released CD Ready...Break, in contrast, contained some of SC's best true masterpieces, like "Babies of the 80s" - a tribute to the timeline classic "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel. Most of SC's fans may be propelled by affection for the boys' soft, sweet looks and sing-a-long pop melodies, but that's just their "corporate" fa


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