It's not often we ask a band, "Where did the emo go?" We wouldn't bid tearful farewells if a band filled with Caucasian, well-to-do musicians gave up on sappy, pseudo-punk tunes, whether they're whiny like Dashboard Confessional or tolerably upset like Pedro the Lion. So what's our beef with Slowride? On their latest album, Building a Building, the Dallas threesome replaces their previous Jimmy Eat World-appreciative style with a darker, grittier tone, but despite delivering a few catchy hooks, they also prove that attitude doesn't necessarily make the music.
Guitarist Dan Philips begins Building by singing "only to return from an empty heaven" over a dirty, acoustic guitar line, and the mood doesn't lighten much from there. "Panther 1" sums up most of the album, with pounding guitars, lines like "I'm gone and I guess I better keep pretending" and formulaic songwriting. It sounds like a Geffen Records release from 1993, and only a few tracks hint at aspirations higher than an opening gig on the Warped Tour.
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Songs like "Sacrifice vs. Apathy" and "Quitting Again" stand out by softening up; that they sound like field recordings in a shack with a bottle of liquor is certainly part of their appeal. They're as dark as the rest of the album, but their construction raises their worth to much more than quiet throwaways. Still, the most promising track is also the most foreign. The disparity isn't hard to figure out: Titled "Track 13," the song seems like it was literally clipped from the 12-track As I Survive the Suicide Bomber, and the old album title is even a line in the song. The lyrics and guitar lines are lighter and reminiscent of the band's previous emo tendencies. Most important, it's a truly catchy blast of pop-rock. This is not the darker, neo-Nirvana attempt of the rest of the album, and perhaps Slowride should note that the odd man out is the champion of Building.