It”s a rare day when a European band storms over to the United States and returns to the respective fatherland sounding “Americanized” (hell, Bush always sounded American, so they don”t count). The Euros tend to keep some of their musical integrity, some of their panache, and some of themselves when they return home. Daft Punk never returns home to France sounding like a cheapened Orgy. In fact, this musical transmogrification tends to work vice versa.
The Anniversary must have spent substantial, perhaps inane amounts of time overseas imbibing the culture and sound before they went to work on the royally titled Your Majesty, the follow-up to their insecure and undoubtedly emo-debut Designing a Nervous Breakdown.
Gone are the loopy synthesizers, too-damn jangly guitars and vocals that sound as if they were recorded from the other end of the parking lot at Meijer. In the place of these detriments The Anniversary strengthened their once thin guitar sound, and sucked the cheese out of their Moogs. It is both a polished and different sounding Anniversary, revised and revamped from the rag-tag bunch of schmaltzy emo-kids that dropped Designing in 2000.
The record business isn”t Arby”s and different isn”t always good. In fact, different is definitely not good when your sound (which wasn”t incredibly original at first gets redux”d into something different, but still derivative) becomes an inexcusably shameful symbiosis of Pulp and Seven More Minutes-era Rentals.
When Matt Sharp”s high-profile moog-driven pop band headed to Spain singer/songwriter Sharp made no qualms about the European cultural infusion onto his music he also made good music. The Rentals had obvious problems on Seven More Minutes (like the sudden British-twang that mystically appeared in Sharp”s voice, and has since infected the vocal chords of Weezer singer Rivers Cuomo) but these problems could for the most part be overlooked on account of music that was cleverly arranged, and blatant in its homage to Euro-pop culture.
It is difficult to imagine a more blatant cross-cultural allusion than naming your album in reference to the royals i.e. Your Majesty. But the indefatigable nods to the European-scene as seen through the eyes of Americans continues into the heart of The Anniversary”s record.
Male-vocalists Josh Berwanger and Justin Roleofs adopt the same nasal breathy posturing that Sharp did on Seven More Minutes, and they do it even less convincingly. Female vocalist Adrianne Pope provides a sugary-sweet foil to the breathy intonations of her male-counterparts.
Songs like “Husam, Husam” catch The Anniversary falling into decidedly indie-cliches with a near-orchestral Verve-like arrangement replete with Pope”s choral cooing plodding along for over a minute and a half before the “song” actually starts. Once “Husam, Husam” finally gets underway (for real) it drags listeners into the streets of Barcelona for a beating with a thick blunt object that object being boredom. Not surprising in the least is another musical mock-montage somewhere near the four-minute mark, changing the song”s pace for some more of Pope”s cooing, before a neo-triumphant return to the overly lethargic hook. The Anniversary deserve a bit of credit for their desire to innovate dynamic changes throughout the song, but the execution is shoddy at best.
Besides the all-too obvious Euro-transitionalist motif Your Majesty is an improvement on their unexciting debut. The improvements in production and songwriting are pseudo-exponential. However, these improvements are offset and marginalized by the fact that The Anniversary break no ground other than the shaky footing on which their first record barely stood.