Album: Come Hell or High Water EP
Bonaventure seems to be a ridiculously popular band name, but having listened to Come Hell or High Water, this band is the only one that should stand out in your mind. Even on its first play, it sounds like something with which you should already be thoroughly familiar. This could be down to the wide-scale accessibility and pleasant refrains of the debut EP, which make it sound remarkably like every other lilting pop-rock band on the charts, but lack of innovation need not mean lack of quality. At least, not in this regard. Come Hell or High Water is a pristine, smoothly executed affair with numerous lush and compelling songs, indicating that Bonaventure will soon be a name on many lips even if it isn’t already thus.
There’s nothing groundbreaking about the EP, yet its fusion of pop sensibilities with a broader rock soundtrack is exceedingly enjoyable and very well accomplished. The vocals are mellifluous yet commanding, and though it never pushes itself into the stratosphere in terms of pace it has a summery rhythm and warm, pensive air. It’s engaging in a gentle way, prompting slow discovery and reflection. “Gaining Speed” is a brooding introduction, combining stirring vocals and rolling guitars for an engaging mix of heart and liveliness. It has an even pace, building a sense of anticipation which fits neatly around the lyrical theme. “I Dare You” comes from a more anguished, affected place. The music is quite charged and the vocals are pleading without being gratuitous. Its sullenness masks a vivid intensity – the chorus is soaring and elegant, while the riveting guitar solo and considered tempo creates a sense of occasion. It is chart-friendly and wholesome, but it has a way of drenching its listeners in its earnestness and this makes it endearing.
“Running with Nothing” takes this absorbing character and builds upon it, fashioning an emphatic and potent song that’s determined to run off with its listenership. There’s obvious fervour and power in the chorus, intertwined with cooler, lingering verses to add fuel to the flame. The gripping and sombre tone will strike a chord and for all that this sounds like background music from a movie or TV show; the scene would be suitably high-drama and tense. “Come Hell or High Water” is a soul-searching ode with a rigorous and grim assurance underlying its modest refrains. It feels like a personal statement, aiming for scale over pace. It’s structured around grave, cutting observations matched by amiable flickers of guitar and although it feels a little too familiar at times, it has a seasoned and reassuring air and the lead vocal performance is very strong.
However, bonus track “These Shoes” is the real stand out here. It captures more life and cheer than any of its predecessors and indeed upstages them with its brighter, resolute outlook. The opening acoustic threads seem tender, until the addition of some percussion allows the song to quicken and take shape. It seems more natural: less fixated on what it wants to sound like and more on what it actually sounds like. There’s a light, easygoing charm to the track that stands out against the concerted vocal delivery and makes it that much more boisterous and appealing.
Come Hell or High Water has an implicit rather than overt charm – its wholesomeness and absorbing sounds hinting at much greater potential that has yet to be tapped. It has the solemn perspective of maturity but fuels it with the gleaming vigour of youth, and although it’s far from novel or remarkable it still feels like an occasion when you listen to it.
Review written by Grace Duffy