Label: AC30 Records Release date: 04/10/10 Link: Official Site Buy: Amazon Is it wrong that I shudder a little every time I see the genre tag “alternative rock”? It’s a term that acts too well as a catchall, an aggressive marketing word that implies that the band being classified will be suitable for top 40 for a wide variety of ages and fans. I mean, !!!, Yo La Tengo, and 311 all share this genre classification under Wikipedia’s definition despite sharing almost no sonic factors overall. And that’s where I begin to have issues with Exit Calm. They are almost always called alternative, classify themselves as “Alternative/Psychedelic/Other” on MySpace, and now have an EP that kind of proves this right. With Don’t Look Down acting as a bridge between their self-titled debut and whatever new material comes next, Exit Calm seem to be more than content enough with being just so alt. To sum up the problem that keeps me from truly enjoying this simply: this band sounds too much like other bands. There are hints of U2’s delayed guitar and use of reverb, Oasis’ love of vintage fetishism, The Verve’s textures, and even American alt’s generics. The vocals suffer the brunt of this, often seeming to resort to the same one-trick pony of “expressive glottal fry” (aka “making your voice gruff to make it seem like you you really fucking care”), or just singing banal couplets. For God’s sake, the second track begins with the lines ‘So your feet are on the ground/But your head’s in the clouds.’ How much more predictable can you get? Also the bass on ‘Don’t Look Down’ sounds like it goes off-key every now and then, but it could just be an aural illusion since it’s always mixed to give emphasis on the lower frequencies with almost no overtones. Really the issue is just how generic it all sounds, as if this band went back and listened to every major 1990s “alt rock” band and copied their best elements. “Oh we need to do something to make this really jump.” “I’ve got it! Let’s make the chorus really loud and throw in a super-distorted guitar! And add wah to make it sound more like Rage Against The Machine, since they were good.” I can imagine dialogues like this happening in the conception of these songs, maybe in their rehearsal space, maybe in the studio, or maybe I’m just being cynical. It’s hard to rag on this since there’s no way to describe these sounds without sounding hackneyed or repetitive. But when the British band you’re hearing sounds like they took lyric courses from the guy who sings for Train, something is afoul. But it wasn’t all bad. The last song was a remix that took only the vocals as a basis by the sounds of it, and retextured the music to sound like NES music by Brian Eno, a nice and enjoyable move that takes away the crushing dullness of the singer’s delivery. Hell, knowing that people will probably love this because it’s so innocuous makes me like the remix a little more since it seems more daring for this band. If they can pull a Kid A and say “Fuck Pablo Honey” (or Exit Calm in this case) and integrate electronics more in place of overused clichés, they could turn in to one of the more enjoyable acts out there. For now, though, they are just so meh. Photobucket