The major label transfer can be a harsh adjustment for many devoted fans. But when you have someone like Acceptance, there isn’t really a need for a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down, because as a fan of the band, it’s what you’ve already been spoon-fed since the act’s inception.
Acceptance’s 2003 EP Black Lines To Battlefields was either a splendid array of catchy, driving, light alt-rock or lame, derisive pop antics, depending on how you looked at it. Essentially, the same can be said for their first full-length, Phantoms.
The band is still treading the rocked-out alternative pop territory that Jimmy Eat World have already more or less staked claim to, but the sound also seems to more greatly incorporate shades of their peers like the Juliana Theory or Anberlin (reference “The Letter” for strong proof), probably due to production choices by Aaron Sprinkle (responsible for the latter’s Blueprints For The Black Market as well as Acceptance’s aforementioned take on alliterate titles). Oddly enough, the album’s first single, the mid-paced “Different,” should get the college kids in a frenzy, as it has lead vocalist Jason Vena hitting pitches in the chorus that wouldn’t seem out of place on one of Coldplay’s radio staples; this isn’t to mention the gentle piano usage as well in opener “Take Cover,” either. So while the band are certainly still in touch with their earlier roots, they also seem to be vaguely branching out to other acclaimed acts, perhaps in a dual bid to achieve mainstream acceptance and critical praise. However, fans should be pleased to know that with said style growth, the band is still at their core, derivative and cautious pop-rock. Granted, the band knows how to write a radio-friendly hook and melody, but with every harmony and guitar stroke, it just seems inherently done.
Though the technical problems are few and far between, the ones that are obvious are quite disruptive to the record's flow. “Permanent,” which prior to Phantoms was likely the “the” song for the band, appears here in a re-recorded format as the second-to-last track. The sequencing of a deathly familiar song for even non-fans makes for a really awkward lapse in the disc, even after repeated listens. It’s apparent Phantoms could get by without it just the same at 11 tracks.
While far from horrible and incompetent, Phantoms is as opaque as its title suggests. On the surface, the record may seem to be a chorus-driven parade of gentle pop-rock hooks well in touch with their emotions, when what it relies on is simply thin and trapped by its own hereditary shortcomings.
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