REVIEW: This Love – At War

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Artist: This Love
Album: At War
Genre: Indie rock/Pop

While listening to this album, a friend of mine quipped, “This is like listening to the Miss America contest. I just want world peace!” This Love, who set out to “revive rock and roll so that listeners can relate,” somehow missed the memo about how cheesy and overdone lengthy meditations on conflict (inner or otherwise) have become within the genre. In At War, they use carefully selected soundbites from great statesmen coupled with pieces of The Script and 30 Seconds to Mars to fashion a thorough exploration of battles both without and within, but somehow lack the skill and sincerity enough to make it in any way effective.

The album opens with “One”, the first of a series of samples from historical speeches. As Robert Kennedy discusses loss and separation, an organ sound and pleading backing vocal sets up a spacy and melancholic opening that promises much more than the album actually delivers. It segues into “Free”, which remains sombre and airy, with a plaintive guitar and tender singing no doubt intended to provide emphasis and meaning. Towards the end, it unleashes what will become one of many pained guitar solos in a slew of rugged emotion, which alas feels too forced and clichéd to truly make an impact. “Shootout” opens with drums and a carefully vacillating guitar, maintaining the generally angsty sound. The vocals are, however, a little too bland and weepy – by definition, music soliloquising on these turbulent topics tends to be a bit banal, no matter how pristine the harmonies and sound. It needs an extra something to stand out from the plethora of similar songs and this element is lacking in the vocals. The song does sound like it wants to be bolder, with chugs of promise in the rhythmic midsection, but it unfortunately confines itself to predictability throughout.

“We Are The Brave” has a tangible 30STM stamp all over it. It’s massively ambitious, switching from slightly erratic programming at the off to a dramatic unfurling of sound with rolling drums. It’s clearly designed for a big arena show with a bursting, anthemic chorus that for all its good intentions and neatly arranged strings sounds a little empty. There’s an air of gravitas missing that prevents one from really taking it seriously. It’s followed by “Good Will,” which does nothing to help – an air siren and speech sample from John F. Kennedy sit atop a striding string overture that pulls feverishly at your emotions. Yet, it seems more like a last minute reject from the score for “X-Men: First Class” than any kind of accomplished, standalone piece. It’s a shame really, as the melody is quite appealing and emotive, but apparently only exists as a minor afterthought to accompany the speech. “Motions” is another bygone from 30STM’s This Is War template, a lengthy song with lots of ill-rhyming meditations on truth and justice and searching for meaning. The music itself is quite tight and vociferous but the lyrics are too mundane and pastiche to lend it an extra bite. Another unmerciful solo makes an appearance towards the end, overruling the steady bass line that has been acting as redeemer. The track, like so many others, is divisive – I understand the aim and the sentiment but the music world has heard so many takes on conflict and goodwill that it’s difficult to see where this fits.

Bizarrely enough, there are times on this record when everything sounds a bit Disney Channel. Beneath the obscure ‘at war with self’ references, church and choir elements make occasional appearances and detract entirely from the style and tone elsewhere. “Fly Away” for instance is a filler with a curiously country air that then shapeshifts into a kind of hymn. “Alive” is similarly clichéd, with broken guitar and drum beats implying struggle, a brief respite, and then starting over. The guitar solo is way too over the top; one might kindly provide the band with a ‘less is more’ credo for their next work. President Obama then signs off on “We All Know Well,” which would have been far more effective if they’d let him talk and not brought in some aimless whining over the speech.

All things considered, At War makes a valiant effort to lend its two cents to the “down with this sort of thing” genre, and to be fair it’s not all bad. The strings and hymn effects are pleasing to the ear, for all the oddness of their inclusion, and there’s lots of potential if only it could find something original to say. As a sophomore album, it’s a little too safe and unremarkable to stand out however, and the band would be far better served to find something less overdone to talk about.

SCORE: 6/10
Review written by: Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • You obviously don’t know what real music is like. Geez… I weep for your soul.

  • And by the way….your writing style totally sucks. Using 50 cent words in every sentence does NOT make you a great writer. It only confuses the average reader.

  • John

    Honestly, i get you have your own opinion but the world needs this album. This album deserves AT LEAST an 8/10

  • Bucsfan846

    Breaking down this article almost isn’t even worth it. It’s hard to relate to someone who writes like she wrote this paper for her 11th grade English paper. Whether Grace is a guy or a girl I’m not even sure, but I’m going to assume it’s a woman since she clearly has terrible taste in music. I’m sorry this album had too much meaning for you to understand; when you grow out of your infantile taste of music and can comprehend how to actually write music give it another listen.

  • mib

    So people really can’t just handle the fact that someone thought that this album sort of sucked?
    It’s a review, she’s reviewed it and written what she thought of it.

    I know, why don’t we just censor everything that wouldn’t be taken as complimentary or truthful because, HOLD THE EFFING BOAT: OPINIONS?! We can’t be having that.

    I’ve listened to the album; it’s not awful, but I wouldn’t add it to my music library.

    Build a bridge; get over it.

  • mib

    Side note: “It’s hard to relate to someone who writes like she wrote this paper for her 11th grade English paper.”

    Christ, what school did you go to?!