What We're Missing

Written by: TL on 18/02/2016 16:26:00

Philadelphia quintet Grayscale graced our pages for the first time last year when we reviewed their "Change" EP, and since then they've picked up speed and are now gathering good quotes about their new extended release, the debut album "What We're Missing". The band plays a brand of contemplative pop-punk which can be melancholic in one song and more laid back and carefree - at least on the surface - in the next. And a good thing about "What We're Missing" is that it shows that Grayscale at the very least has a good approach for how to make an album.

At nine tracks, the record is hardly overly long, in fact, you can listen through it in only 27 minutes, yet the songs get around different corners of the band's cabinet of influences and manage to stand apart reasonably well as a result. Opener "Tense" for instance, starts on a sentimental note that almost sounds like Have Mercy or like something from the heyday of Hawthorne Heights, yet later - in its new alternate version - the song "Change" leans back on some noodling riffage that brings to mind the likes of Elder Brother or Transit. Meanwhile "Say Something" has a ringing signature guitar bit that sounds almost like something from the background of an old Goo Goo Dolls song. Furthermore, the whole production sounds nice and elaborate, and the band clearly have strengths in their instrumentation and backing vocal arrangements, which are detailed and succeed in setting up compelling moods of different kinds across the record's runtime.

Unfortunately, it's not all praise for Grayscale, as "What We're Missing" is also hindered by some areas the band would do well to improve in. Lyrically for instance, they hardly put their best foot forward with sentiments like "I hope you wake up sad every day" in "Tense", nor with the following "Palette" 's jealousy lyrics of "You know it's no good for you / You know he's no good for you". Banal self-righteousness in pop-punk seems right alive here. Whether or not references to the Menzingers or 'the roaring twenties' are in good taste or rather cheap attempts at awakening some recognition with the target audience is also open to debate. The pleading romanticism of "Say Something" is more relatable then, as are the attempts to dissuade a suicidal friend in the mellow "Irish Curtains".

It's only part of the issue "What We're Missing" has, though, and it does have an issue, namely that despite the instrumental qualities, the album does not run for long from the start, before it slides to a presence as background music, releasing your full attention to wander elsewhere rather than fully soak in the album's second half. This supposedly also has to do with the rather ordinary voices of Collin Walsh and Dallas Molster, who - for lack of a better description - sound like clones made from the gene pools of the remainder of contemporary pop-punk vocalists. Their shortcomings mainly lie in the relative flatness of their more powerfully, cleanly sung parts, where you get the feeling that the lyrics were written with emotion, yet sung somewhat awkwardly and disconnected in recording.

So to sum up, some more characteristic vocal work and some more consistent lyricism could probably help Grayscale in the future, but for the time being they've written a moderately compelling and well-produced contemporary emo/pop-punk record. It has a handful of the kind of songs you will likely recognise if you hear them sounding from speakers near you, yet lack at the very least a stronger impact single or three to overcome the overall drawbacks and merit a slightly higher grade.

Download: Say Something, Irish Curtains
For The Fans Of: Misser, Elder Brother, Transit, Knuckle Puck

Release date 12.02.2016
Anchor Eighty Four

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