The Corks‘ latest and self-titled EP is three tracks of generic blues-influenced alt-rock. It calls back to two distinct eras in music history, one more contemporary than the other but the most straight-forward comparison I can offer to describe their sound is this: if Nickelback had focused their sound on blues influences rather than their ultimate counter-productive blend of metal and pop. That description likely has some of you wondering, “Why on Earth would we want something like that?” You’re not alone, dear and perplexed reader, but the obvious answer is, you don’t.
Which isn’t to say that I’m the type of elitist willing to write-off a band for specifically looking to Kroeger and company as inspiration. Their early records were a big deal for me and I counted them as my favourite band for a while. In my opinion, those albums don’t get enough credit for the quality of their heavier songs because their pop-y singles and a handful of tragic genre shifts have all but erased that brief legacy. I digress.
The most prominent remanent of early ’00s alt-rock featured on this EP are the lead vocals. If the post-grunge warble is a deal-breaker for you, steer clear. Another flaw that invites distraction is the lyrics. They’re nothing special at their best and downright cringe-worthy at their worst. I’m as much a fan of stoner media as the next person but a chorus that consists most prominently of the repetitive “I got high,” as the album’s closing song “Take Me Home” demonstrates, is just grating and obnoxious. However, the psychedelic qualities in the pre-chorus and some of the song’s instrumental bits do a sufficient job of setting the right tone. This makes anything else referencing the theme, let alone a bombastic chorus, feel like overkill. The instrumentals on this track occasionally have a funky vibe to them but the pull of the alt-rock influences are just too distracting.
The opening track, “Wait and See,” has a different problem. It features a super pretty pre-chorus, but the groove attempted by the instruments in the verses is too stiff. The song’s outro, however, creates a satisfying crescendo, embracing the post-rock beauty in the pre-chorus and giving those themes more room to breathe. The EP’s middle track, “Live,” features elements of the others and, unfortunately, helps make an undeniably short collection of songs feel too long. Though, I’m a huge fan of the vocal melody in the chorus and the slowed-down, almost surf-rock instrumental break that features wordless vocalizations, which suit the tone of the segment perfectly.
Overall, this EP is a dud despite some interesting concepts. Those concepts simply aren’t used to their full potential and as a result, become tragically overshadowed by its weakest elements. The Corks are competent songwriters and instrumentalists with a taste for flair and originality that just needs to be fostered further.
Written by Brian Charles Clarke
*edited by Danielle Kenedy