Walk Off The Earth is a good example of a band that knows how to take advantage of changing trends in the music industry. As the record store-browsing generation gives way to the downloading generation, bands need to find new ways to break through to the public and expand their audience. Walk Off The Earth has certainly done this with its YouTube channel, which boasts over 316-million channel views and 1.2-million subscribers. It has all sorts of content, from high-quality original songs to videos of half-naked band members doing acrobatics in hotel rooms. The most famous video showcases a cover of Gotye’s “Somebody I Used to Know” with all of the band members playing one guitar and contributes to almost half of the channel’s total views. The explosion of the video led to a spike in popularity and recognition for Walk Off The Earth.
Walk Off the Earth
R.E.V.O. is the band’s first full studio release since its viral success, co-produced by frontman Gianni Luminati and Canadian producer Tawgs Salter, and it reveals a lot about how falling into popularity has pulled the band’s music into the mainstream, for better or for worse. The first half of the record is noticeably different from the second half, and the “pivot” is the seventh track, which is their famed cover of “Somebody That I Used to Know.” This turning point demands that the album be examined in two parts.
Walk Off The Earth has always been a reggae band, but the first half of R.E.V.O., thick with pop songs, is a departure from its roots. The compositions on this album are fuller both vertically and horizontally: There are more layers in the tracks, and there are more ideas packed into each song. Most vocal melodies are harmonized, and the band uses a stadium reverb on a lot of the vocals, guitars and drums to make the songs into high-energy rock anthems.
The first half of the record sounds like it’s best listened to while shouting the chorus with fists in the air. Every melody is memorable, and every beat is epic. However, their success in achieving this stadium vibe comes at the cost at some of their raw emotional power that used to show in their reggae recordings. Since the compositions are so densely written and full of material, there’s not much time to milk the feeling in the notes and there’s not much room for experimentation. There’s no weird screaming, gritty blues notes or high-as-the-sky reggae jams anymore. This new lack of feel becomes even more obvious in the second half.
The cover of “Somebody I Used to Know” shows up at track seven to break the record’s flow. Of course it has to be on there, because fans are expecting it, but without the accompanying video, there’s just something missing. One guitar can only do so much compared to a full project of overlayed tracks, so the rich anthem vibe is lost. A listener can only hope that this loss of momentum will pick back up in the last four tracks.
Too bad, that’s not happening. The second half of the album is Walk Off The Earth’s attempt to reattach to its reggae vibe. However, the members aren’t committed enough to achieving their old reggae feel to give up their new pop sound. The band brings back the reggae drums and themes, but not the passion and the angst. The result is a collection of generic, bland beach-chilling songs. Harmonicas and ukuleles recorded dry make some of the songs sound like menu music provided by stock DVD creator software. Instead of using weird vocal techniques and guitar sounds like they used to, they use sound effects — which sound like they came from a keyboard that sold for $50 at Target — to spice up the mix. These songs are cheesy and diluted and can hardly be called reggae.
R.E.V.O. starts off as a very promising record, but then fizzles and dies near the end. Listen to it, but do yourself a favor and press pause around track seven. Maybe go listen to their first album Smooth Like a Stone on the Beach at that point, so you can get a taste of what the end of R.E.V.O. should have sounded like.