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Devils and Angels’ is divinely uninspired

Marty Schroeder | Friday, April 13, 2007

With their newest release, “Devils and Angels,” pop-rock band Melee have somehow managed to create one of the most generic albums ever put to digital disc. This album is what Rob Gordon once called “music I can ignore,” and its polish seems so overdone that it has virtually eliminated any semblance of originality or talent.

“Devils & Angels” opens with the especially ignorable “Built to Last.” Frontman Chris Cron’s style feels something like Coldplay, melded to a sad imitation Motion City Soundtrack and with a dash of The Shins – only, well, not as good. When Cron wants to croon, his vocals try to massage the tinny guitars in an attempt to sound epic. Unfortunately, it only sounds like over-produced babble. Cron should leave the singing to guys like Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock – someone who actually knows how to croon with his instruments – and return to the delusions of grandeur from whence he comes.

This is not to say that every song on the album is horrible – some of them manage to be only quite bad. The third track, “Frequently Baby (She’s a Teenage Maniac),” kicks the album into second gear, past the feeble “first gear” of the rest of the album. Sadly, for listeners, this is where the placid excitement ends. Trying to sound like British rockers Muse, they throw in piano for good measure. But where Muse is epic, Melee sings about a teenage maniac with her heart of the dance floor. If Melee wants to sound and look like British rockers, it should stop singing about high school girls. It’s just plain creepy.

The rest of album follows along like a pop music cookbook. Producer Howard Benson seems, like numbers before him, to have followed the path of least musical resistance, and “Devils and Angels” feels like an uninspired combination of pop tendencies and pseudo-hipster sensibilities as a result. It’s as though Benson and Melee consulted the library of generic blues conventions, added a quarter of a cup of rhythm, mixed in a dash of monotonous guitar and covered it with a bland production glaze.

“Drive Away,” from the first half of the album, tries to be edgy with some crunchy guitars. Sadly, it’s just too little too late – and Melee hasn’t hit the middle of the album. The rest of the “Devils and Angels” continues along the same well-trod path.

The only decent song on the album is its bonus track, “You Make My Dreams.” This song is actually catchy, with its fuzzy guitars that seem to have escaped the producers’ spit-n-shine routine. Cron sings with some real feeling, and the rest of the band provides decent background vocals. The best thing about this track is its honesty – the band isn’t trying to be epic or groundbreaking. They are, strangely enough, having fun with the song. It’s too bad for Melee that this diamond in the rough is a bonus track, and that they couldn’t take a cue from it for the rest of the album.

All in all, Melee’s “Devils and Angels” is a horrible piece of recorded music. It knows what it wants to be, which is more than many bands can say, and it is what it is – very bad. Go check out Modest Mouse, Muse or even Coldplay before you go near this one.