REVIEW: Ashland High – Geronimo

Artist: Ashland High
Album: Geronimo
Genre: Electro/pop
Label: (None)

The debut album from Trace Cyrus’ new musical project is a polarising work. Cyrus actually shows some unexpected potential for the electro-pop genre, distancing himself from the Metro Station (RIP) past which highlighted a flair for disposable, glossy chart tunes but hardly any real musical merit. Information on this project online is sparse, which is a shame as it’s nowhere near the lacklustre rehash we judgmental types might have expected. Indeed, there’s a lot of very catchy and likeable tunes on Geronimo. There are just as many unconvincing disasters loitering starkly about, but the album is far more deserving of your attention than some may care to admit. It’s the very definition of hit and miss, but it is firmly on the money when it works.

The early showings are very promising. The dressed-down effect of “Jealous Lover” suits Cyrus, walking a fine line between minimalism and apathy and overcoming some forced programming to convince. One can hear what he’s aiming for and generally, it is interesting – indicative of a hitherto untapped ability to evoke mood and substance that does the album some justice. “Satellite” has similar guilty pleasure value. There’s very little going on, but what does float sombrely throughout is pleasing. The whispering lyrics verge on embarrassing at times but if one is so inclined, could prove further endearing. Then, on “Overload,” Cyrus kicks himself firmly into shape with a sharp and precise opening. The song is well structured, with verses creating momentum and then building to a natural flourish in the chorus. It’s underwhelming, but in a good way – its charm is insidious as opposed to overt so that anyone whose interest is piqued will be easily drawn in and anyone not so inclined can just ignore it.

“Heartbeats” shows the first rumblings of unease with a close, velvety sound that will either make it very loveable or deeply irritating. Further, the vocals drift somewhat and fail to provide the talisman the wafting music needs. “Sippin’ on Sunshine” is when things start to go wrong. From its opening notes, it seems pompous and out-of-touch, yearning for a coolness it just doesn’t have. It seems the potential of the opening tracks may have led to over-confidence, which is unfortunate as everything was mostly OK until this bold venture fell on its face. It could be, of course, that the whiny lyrics and delirious music are deliberately self-deprecating but Geronimo hasn’t shown us enough to deserve such deep analysis. “Highs and Lows” is also lamentable. It feels recycled and lazy, which makes the slower, deliberate moments too awkward to take seriously. Cyrus sounds dangerously like Andy Samberg on The Lonely Island’s “Jizz In My Pants” here, which would be totally fine if he were consciously trying to be funny. As it stands, the song’s a write-off.

The singing remains on its downhill course from here on in, but the record does happily absolve itself. “XTC” is much better, with a bubbling excitement that more than makes up for its wobbly elements. “Clouds” has a leering electro refrain that actually works wonders for it, especially considering the writing’s complete failure to ally the sinister music to any lyrical toughness. “One Night” could be a remix of something that was discarded from a Nickelodeon movie, but “We Never Sleep” is quite sweet. “Shadows” ends things well as the album comes full circle. It’s not amazing, but its various artificial add-ons create something competent and positive so that it ends on a deservingly decent note.

Geronimo could do with some plugging, as it seems like there’s very little fanfare going for an album that actually warrants some. It’s good – never great – and thrives in spite of its midsection jitters. Suffice to say, those in search of something relevant and profound need not apply, but otherwise there’s a fair helping of easygoing fun to be had here.

SCORE: 6/10
Review written by Grace Duffy

James Shotwell
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