Originally Published at The Blue Indian on August 4,2010.
With the hellacious Southern summer a full 7 or 8 weeks from even letting on at relenting, one might expect a mid-July rock release to bear some of the scalding intensity of these dog days. Tentatively enter: Trances Arc’s TA. This sophomore release is self-admittedly a battle against the “headiness” of their first XOXOX. In that capacity, TA achieves a summery freeness perhaps not as readily evident as before.
But we’re talking about Southern college rock here. Forget the over/under-thinking and put out a melter to match the climate! A true summer rock record warps like vinyl on an Atlanta sidewalk. Instead causing me to retreat into the deep-end of a lukewarm pool, this release merely had me wondering why they thought they could light me up with a magnifying glass? Nothing hurt, just a lot of the same old tricks. Warm, but not blistering. SPF 5.
Barring a few moments, the pilot-light flare-up track “Fuego Balloons” and the terribly delightful ripping solo in “Black Lung,” the album, on the whole, lacks either the risky abandon or the tight cohesion that might really give the listener something to sweat. Sure, TA provides great shuffle-fodder: which could either be the start of something beautiful (creating buzz for the band and giving you that perfect track for the state-line on that last interstate stretch before heading back to campus) or more likely dooming the disc to the bottom of the stack and letting the albums of folks who make albums (the Thom Yorkes, Strokes, Muses, and Cold War Kids of the world, to whom this band certainly nods), rise to the top.
Maybe I’m being a bit harsh. Let me backtrack a bit. There were some noteworthy moments. The aforementioned “Fuego Balloons,” with its drum, organ, and handclap-infused swagger, lit me up. “Our Wild Eyes” struck a nice balance between arena-rock grandeur and intimate emotion; a mischievously playful young-love ballad done well.
I have a hard time with this collection of songs, because it’s not at all unlistenable; they’re just not, especially as a whole, all that compelling. Have a listen for yourself, and I think you’ll find a few solid tracks, some more than capable musicianship, fleeting summer fun, and a bit of underachievement.