Album: Stop the World
Genre: Rock/Hard rock
Label: Aranda Music
Aranda’s description on their Facebook page indicates that listening to them is “like hearing an explosive hybrid of the atom bomb and all of Woodstock combined.” High praise, that, assuming it’s not self-imposed. It is unfortunate then that the Oklahoma four-piece are nowhere near as thrilling as this would imply, and on this evidence seem instead to come from the school of big-scale, rugged chart rock that has made stars of the likes of Shinedown and Daughtry. Unlike these bands however, who manage to combine solid riffs with charismatic presence and thereby ensure accessibility for all, Aranda offer a slightly more fatigued take on the non-offensive rock band front. Their songs are good but patently not great, lacking any real spark or involvement and far too familiar to stand out from the crowd. The intention is so clear that it’s all but formulaic, as the band fixates on a very particular sound but fails to infuse it with any relevance.
This is probably a tad harsh, as there’s nothing objectively wrong with these songs. Nonetheless, they’ll need a lot more than aggressive vocals to register. “The Upside of Vanity” kicks things off with raucous guitars and a steady, pounding chorus. It has a decent bit of life to it but this can’t disguise how much of it you’ve heard before. “Stop the World” is another archetypal, chart-friendly track, veering from earnest to galvanised with varying degrees of success. The instruments are quite sharp though, giving it more obvious appeal. “One More Lie” has standard issue riffs, aching vocals, and undercurrents of rage and jealousy. This makes for a pretty potent mixture and it certainly sounds ferocious, but it’s just not affecting. Even mainstream rock needs something startling in order to fully convince, and a showy solo can’t disguise how hollow this feels.
Yet, it must be said that the album doesn’t always unfold in a predictable manner. “Undone,” the second track, is a huge comedown from the opener. It opens with a lone, troubled guitar leading the charge and largely contains itself for the verses. The chorus is loud and resurgent, appealing to inner strength and confronting obstacles. On this track, the music is actually very well-executed in that it evokes difficulty and uncertainty of sorts – it’s all quite crude and ineloquent but it does match the lyrics. “Hey Sally” is also enjoyable for its non-obvious approach, using something like a twist of country for a feel-good effect. The music seems more muted than elsewhere, with a laid-back, breezier sound that’s really likeable.
“Stand” is a rather graceless attempt to spice things up, with some beats and programming added to enliven the album. The design is so contrived it actually seems cynical. Normally this kind of track is at least guiltily enjoyable, but this is so in-your-face with its attempts to excite that it barely musters an obliging nod. Stop the World does manage to finish on a relatively positive note though, with the resolute, vibrant strains of “The Rest of My Life” winning favour. The vocals are engaging as opposed to overblown and the stripped-back approach to the verses lets it breathe a little.
Unless I’m a horribly demanding reviewer, it seems that Aranda’s sophomore effort has shot wide of the mark. It’s a perfectly acceptable listen for the uninitiated, but for anyone used to better bands doing more creative things with their music, it’s safe to say you can leave it be.
Review written by Grace Duffy