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The Ataris’ latest album not a ‘welcome’ addition

Observer Scene | Thursday, March 1, 2007

Some bands, as they mature, grow into their progressing sound naturally. Like a new pair of shoes, eventually they fit just right. Finally, the music they make they can claim as their own. Other bands try to grow up too quickly and they overdo things. They end up swimming in their music like an oversized sweatshirt you borrow from your older brother. Given enough time, there might be a chance to grow into the right size.

Only The Ataris haven’t grown up yet. The group’s newest release “Welcome the Night” has the feeling of just not fitting. This album gives a distinct sense that The Ataris tried to change sound too quickly for their own good. The listener gets the idea that perhaps the group was looking up to its “older brothers” – The Killers, for example – and said, “Yeah, yeah … we can do that too.” The problem is, sometimes it’s just best to admit you aren’t the same as your older siblings and move in your own direction. The Ataris should have done that instead.

Realistically, this band shouldn’t be making this type of music, not yet. The sound just gives off the feeling that the notes coming from the speakers shouldn’t belong to The Ataris. It is natural, and actually great, for a band to mature over time. The great modern rock bands – Incubus, The Killers, or (a bit further back) U2 – all changed their sound over the course of their albums. The difference, however, is that with those bands, the change was moderate and slow and eased the listener in until they were ready.

Even though The Ataris had success as a pop-punk and rock band, they changed to something completely different over night. This was the band that, at one time, toured with Blink-182 (pre-“Take Off Your Pants and Jacket”) and MXPX and it is clear that the group no longer wants that identity. This is immediately obvious when the CD opens with the driven anti-love-ballad “Not Capable of Love,” which is the album’s first single. A far cry from the punk-feel of The Ataris old work, even the lead singer’s voice seems to have changed. However, this is one of the stronger songs on the album.

Very expectedly, the best songs on the album are those that sound the most like the group’s old work – “The Driftwood Sinn” and “The Cheyenne Line” are two tracks that have the same feel as the band’s old work. Notice, however, that the songs are not exactly the same. The group still shows growth in these pieces, but does so slowly and assuredly.

Even with all of its flaws, the thing about this album is it really is not bad. In fact, it is very listenable and several of the tracks are really quite good. The problem with the album is just that it sounds forced. It’s like the band is trying to sound like someone else, which isn’t necessary.

Right from the beginning of the CD, it’s obvious that lyrically the album is solid and it is very clear the members of the band – vocalist/guitarist Kris Roe, guitarist Marco Peña, bassist Mike Davenport and drummer Derrick Plourde (formally of Lagwagon) – are musically talented. However, it’s just the feeling that the band is trying to be something they are not, at least not yet, that makes the CD slip from possibly something very good, to something that is just alright.

Eventually, if The Ataris can somehow claim this sound as its own, the band can have a fighting chance at being something special.