New Wave is back baby. Or it never went away. I can never tell, not with today’s ever-shifting sonic landscape. People take their favourite bits and pieces from times of yore and intersperse them within newer styles. Sometimes it works really well and a band blasts something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue out of the park; other times, not so much. Sadly, New Device, the debut album from L.A. based band, Life On Fire, is one of the latter times.
First off, I gotta say that the production value is top-notch. It sounds like it was recorded in a professional studio, and that big dollars were paid to make big things happen. I’m very happy with the mixing. No one instrument comes over the top of any other, and nothing is drowned out. Everything is in its right place. I was also impressed with the band’s use of effects, whether it was Damon Barnett on guitars or Giuseppe Caruso on keyboards. They both had a spot-on approach. Each effect was never too abrasive, nor encompassing in each section. Sometimes it was a hit on the delay or some sweet phaser effect. Either way, it was effective (see what I did there? Huh? HUH?). Mad props for the use of the step feature on the phaser by the way. So rarely is it done well, and this band pulled it off in spades.
And now, on to why I gave them a 5/10. It’s the songwriting. I’m a fan of when a band keeps things simple and writes a solid song, not trying to redefine the wheel. It’s just that with New Device, there were a lot of times where I was going, “Meh, I’ve already heard it.”, whether it was a vocal melody in “Trickle Down” that’s reminiscent of Green Day, or the piano riff in “Blocking Out A Freeway” that sounded straight out of Pink Floyd. However, it goes beyond that. I understand that it’s very rare to find a band that can capture and command an entirely new sound, one that has never been heard or experienced before, but all these songs sounded like they tried to fall back on something too comfortable. It sounded like the band was too afraid to break the mould and instead was content to rehash something that’s been done a multitude of times before. (No surprise that they’re from L.A., the place where originality goes to die).
It sounded like these cats were afraid to let their hair down, to go balls-out on their songwriting. I will say this, however: for a debut album, they’ve got a clear sound that travels throughout the album. They’ve crafted their sound, now they just need to work on their riffage.
All in all, this is not my jam. Take a listen to them and tell me if they’ve got shades of songs past, or if they’re original as all get out and I’m just off my rocker. As always, I look forward to your answers in the comments below.
Written by Aaron Deck
*edited by Kate Erickson