Sonic Boom (Universal)
by Tim Den
Another one-time great fallen from the top of the heap… Continuing on the path of substance dilution that started with the (surprisingly enjoyable) major label debut Eyewitness, Sonic Boom is as neutered as the unimaginative title suggests (I can’t hear it without thinking of Guile from Street Fighter II). While the three members can still play their instruments like Clinton bagging his next prey (that is: slick, resourceful, charismatic), they’ve retained none of the spirit exhibited in their past releases. Perhaps 10+ years toiling in the underground has finally worn out their faith, cuz Sonic Boom sure sounds like it wants to be loved by everyone. And to ensure that’s the case, the album’s been packed to the top with all that’s easily digestible. How can the masses (the pitifully unobservant) not love the textbook radio rock slogans all over this thing? For one, the production’s weak enough to attract even the most ardent light-rock lover. For another, the refuse salvaged from scraping the insides of toilet pipes called lyrics on this thing are exactly what makes bands successful: they’re about as fucking brain dead as a manure-suffocated victim. Even if you can stomach all the cheesy and not clever at all (not to mention obvious) integration of “space” themes (“Shockwaves,” “Gravity,” “Radioactivated”), how can you listen to a song called “Rebel Teenager From Mars” without punching yourself in the face for being so gullible? “Tangled up in g-forces/why’d I skip my physics courses/losing grip I’m slipping toward the sun/you call this fun?” No, I call them in-between class scribbles by an 11 year-old.
The musically endearing moments on Sonic Boom are few and far between as well. Just when you think you’re digging the smart key changes and transitions (“Gravity,” “Radioactivated,” “SuperZero”), they’re followed by empty excuses for inappropriate “group shouts” (“Got Shot Down” and “SuperZero,” two of what may be the worst cases of middle-aged yuppie “hey, look at us! We can be fun and crazy too” moments in studio history). And please – please – don’t get me started on the artwork. They’re based around diner menus, fast food with explosives in ’em, and horribly super-imposed drawings made by what must be the band’s infant children. You can only imagine… I wouldn’t be surprised if this record flops just on the fact that no one in their right minds would buy something with this kind of mess on the cover.
I used to follow Shades Apart around, going to every show I could. For years, they meant the world to me. For Save It to Seeing Things and even Eyewitness, I supported this band with all my heart. Their unparalleled chemistry and flawless symmetry with one another made more sense than any other post-pop punk band ever will. Those were the days when they didn’t have to cull songs from their back catalog in order to prove their might (a remake of “Behind the Wheel” from Seeing Things [their best record], one of their best songs, sits droopy-headed 3/4ths into this record. Hey, at least it beats the completely limp-wristed remake of “Second Chances” [again, off of Seeing Things. Starting to understand which is the good album?] on Eyewitness). They were inspirational back then. They should just expire now.