The first impressions of a young music project can betray its ambitions, and on their debut, The Darlingtons, from Taunton, shoot straight up into the sky, playing stadium-sized guitar rock that sounds bigger than its creators' obscurity would suggest. But Decades Dance sometimes overreaches and misses the mark, strangely coming across as both surprisingly professional and a bit underdeveloped, and, in the end, just comes out a bit underwhelming.

'Bats' opens the album pretty nicely with some big, bright guitar chords and a propulsive drum beat. A big chorus makes up for the okay verses, and everything falls neatly into place. Everything falls into place very neatly, in fact. The band uses all the right guitar sounds, the harmonies come in at just the right time, all the right effects are in all the right places. It all sounds very professional and labored over, but it can also make everything feel a little sterile. Still, it's a pretty nice opener, and a really good single that will probably resonate fairly well with fans of bands like The National.

The following few tracks fare similarly. 'Ship At Sea' is a nice complement to 'Bats,' both mirroring and trumping the preceding track in almost all respects. 'Everything' builds up from a quirky, jittery guitar part before lurching into another straightforward rock song. And 'It Hangs' some nice muted guitar picking that highlights the bands' 80s influences. As is the case with the album as a whole, the songs themselves aren't always all that strong, but the musicianship often manages to make up for it and maintain interest.

But after this the album wanes more and more as it goes on, not only because the front of the album is packed with most of the band's best songs, but because their style grows old pretty quickly. Nearly every track relies on quiet verse/loud chorus song structure, and the arena-sized guitar chords quickly lose power as the formula is repeated. There's not a lot of variation here, and when there is, as on the moody, slow 'Sunflowers,' the band feels out of their element. As the album loses traction, the supersleek production feels increasingly inhibiting, and it begins to feel like it's masking a lack of personality in The Darlingtons' music overall.

Unfortunately, The Darlingtons wait to bring the fire until long after casual listeners will have lost interest, saving their best track for last. 'Watch Yourself' is the band's most successful attempt at creating the kind of music they strived to create on the preceding ten tracks. The guitar arpeggios are at their most atmospheric, the rhythm section is driving, and the dynamic shifts between the song's verses and arena-sized choruses are effective, yet a bit more subtle. The hook is pretty great too, and the vocals feel more at home than anywhere else on the record. It leaves the album on a high note (ignoring the pointless and ignorable 'Interlude 2'), and, along with a few of the tracks packed into the album's front end, it's a clear indicator that The Darlingtons are probably a solid band.

But it doesn't make Decades Dance a solid record, and the album as a whole falls squarely in very average territory. The whole album really just seem to have one gear, and this weakens the impact of even the strongest tracks. The best material on here is a lot stronger on its own - and could have some success and merit as singles - but the album as a whole tends to go in one ear and out the other.