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Idiot Pilot’s latest crashes and burns

Ryan Raffin | Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Radiohead is everywhere these days. After setting the world (or maybe just the Internet) on fire with the sneaky digital release of “In Rainbows,” the band continues to cast a long shadow over modern music. It seems with each passing day it becomes more influential, crawling ever closer to the level of music legends. So, given the stylistic similarities, it is nearly inevitable that the Washington electronic rock duo Idiot Pilot will be compared to them. Ethereal vocals, electronic textures and drumming, soaring choruses – it’s all there.

The wrinkle that Idiot Pilot brings to the game is a slightly more aggressive sound. The clean vocals can become harsher and occasionally move into screaming, the tempos get faster and the guitar work becomes louder. But these abrasive moments have become fairly rare on the bands sophomore effort, titled “Wolves.” This is certainly a pop album, especially when compared to their prior work.

It’s an unfortunate regression as the band strikes a fine balance between pop-oriented melodies and cathartic thrashing on their 2005 debut “Strange We Should Meet Here.”

The best song on the album is the opener “Last Chance”, with an explosive, catchy and anthem-like chorus. It is the only track that really stands out on the record, which is a rather disappointing fact, because the song shows quite a bit of promise. Though still heavily indebted to Radiohead, there is a spark of creativity here that the rest of the album sorely lacks.

The now-rare moments of aggression on “Wolves” seem forced, as if the band included them only for fear of alienating its fan base by changing its sound too much from its debut.

One example is the ending of “Red Museum”, which seems tacked on and unnecessary. The rest of the song is a simple Radiohead clone, which is fair enough, but nothing even close to new or original. To avoid any more redundancy, one thing should be plainly stated right now: Basically every song on this album sounds like Radiohead to one degree or another.

The seven-minute album closer “Recurring Dream” is aptly-named, because hearing it is much the same as hearing about any other person’s dream; it’s mind-numbingly boring. The idea of placing an epic sounding song at the end of your album may seem appealing, but when that song never seems to end, all it does is test the limits of the listener’s patience.

“Retina and the Sky” was included on the Transformers soundtrack, and could feasibly appear in other movies or commercials. It seems like the sort of song recorded only to serve as an innocuous soundtrack to someone telling you about the advantages of a Hyundai.

Luckily someone, be it the band, label or producer, exercised some quality control and kept the running time of “Wolves” at 43 minutes and only ten songs. Although in this case it’s not quality control so much as damage control. Most of the tracks slip by, completely unnoticed and indistinguishable from each other. Aside from “Last Chance” no song is worth hearing more than once.

It’s unfortunate that the potential shown on their older work has not been fulfilled; instead the band opted for “maturity,” which translates into boredom. Hopefully next time around they will realize that ripping off a more established band does not guarantee success or critical admiration. This album is the simple case of a band that lacks the ingenuity and dedication to find its own sound, instead choosing to ape another.