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Spill Canvas disappoints

Analise Lipari | Tuesday, November 6, 2007

With two albums under its belt, the Spill Canvas should arguably have its act together. But “No Really, I’m Fine,” the third studio album from this Sioux Falls, S.D. alt-rock band seems more like an uneven, freshman effort.

“We tried to just to concentrate on a lot of different styles that we’re able to do,” lead singer Nick Thomas said in a recent interview with drivenfaroff.com, “and we kind of just went for it in ever aspect.” The album definitely varies stylistically, calling to mind bands as diverse as Maroon 5 and SR-71, with the occasional ska-like trumpet work thrown into the mix. Unfortunately for the Spill Canvas, the venture is ultimately less successful than the band wishes it were.

“No Really, I’m Fine” feels confused – it’s as though the band members hired Pat Sajak to spin a Wheel of Music Styles each day in the recording studio. Yes, there is a general aesthetic that carries through most of the album, but not in a way that makes it feel as coherent as it could and should have been.

The album opens with “Reckless Abandonment,” a Lostprophets-esque track about what the band sees as the world’s current state of affairs. Rather than buy into the corporate war machine, Thomas’s grainy voice ironically asks his listeners to fight the powers that be in their own way. The chorus closes by asking listeners, “So fill your shoes with cement/ And kiss the one you love/ With reckless abandonment.” It’s a strong track with a frustrated feel, but the prototypical, alt-rock social message is kind of tiresome.

The second track, “All of You,” switches things up stylistically with a slightly mellower mood, and with the key word being “slightly.” With a slower opening and more straightforward guitar work, the instrumentation complements the emo feel of the lyrics well enough.

“Hush Hush” feels like a strange combination of the occasional Adam Levine falsetto with angry guitar and bass. With this track especially, the final result of blending these “different styles” is an album that’s going through a kind of identity crisis.

“The Truth,” the album’s fourth song, again calls emo-rock bands like Lostprophets to mind with its moan-like vocals and energetic electric guitar. The lyrics jump wildly from a carpe diem message to a bitter, post-breakup indictment. “Forget what I said/ You’re only good in bed/ Or on your knees, knees/ Time doesn’t wait for anyone.”

The strongest track on “No Really, I’m Fine” is probably “Appreciation and the Bomb,” an eclectic little ditty that gets the band’s desired style-bending just right. With drums, irregular vocals and even the occasional jingle bells, “Appreciation and the Bomb” is a good track, even if only for the fun of seeing what the band will throw at you next.

Some other highlights include “Battles,” a track that adds to its melancholy mood with a slight southwestern-feel in the guitar work. Additionally, the track “Saved,” which opens with an almost Coldplay-like style, feels like it belongs on a soundtrack for the junior high years – though it’s unlikely that you’ll ever hear it on an episode of “Hannah Montana.” Finally, “Connect the Dots” is a strong effort as a slow, whispery love song with a seamy underbelly to its lyrics.

The album closes with “Lullaby,” playing to the near-opposite of “Reckless Abandonment” with traces of banjo and violin. If “No Really, I’m Fine” were a stronger record, this might be considered a full-circle progression. But with an ultimately confusing style and near-exhausted subject matter, the Spill Canvas just feels like a regression in boredom.