Tokyo Rose seem to be switching from pop-punk to punk-pop on their newest release from SideCho, New American Saint, if the label even matters. What I mean by this is that where pop-punk would be defined as punk music that leans more towards the pop side, the new album from Tokyo Rose almost sounds like pop music with punk tendencies. While this is something that might not sound appealing to a punk audience, the album is fairly solid, and if nothing else, a very easy listen.
The quartet from Jersey released their first album on SideCho Records in 2003. Entitled Reinventing a Lost Art, the album was nothing revolutionary, but it was a solid start to their career. After being compared to a few of the bands they listen to, such as Saves the Day and Jimmy Eat World, Tokyo Rose seem to be taking more on this album from some of their other influences including Coldplay and U2.
I therefore suggest any hardcore punks stop reading this review now, and find out what else came out this week. However, for anyone with an open mind, and who doesn’t feel cheap for humming along to catchy hooks and honing in on their emotional side, this record is definitely worth a listen.
Bassist Chris Poulsen has stated that he believes “every song [on the new album] stands on its own.” This is a bold assertion, and a little overstated, but there are at least four tracks I could see making solid singles in the right hands, at the right time; which is an achievement for any album.
The album focuses heavily on the vocals of Ryan Dominguez, while the instrumentation creates a different kind of aura for the range of themes in their songs. The title track, “New American Saint,” deals with what people are willing to give for fame, and how they forget their beginnings in the search for it. The album cover accordingly features two men and three women on pedestals, overlooking a depressing landscape.
Some may point this out as ironic, considering the heavy pop tendencies of the songs on this album (and the tendency of pop to be for nothing more than fame and fortune), however, Tokyo Rose has forged a sound that (while reverberating other acts) is truly their own. They seem confident in this sound, which doesn’t hint they are “faking it.”
I have two small complaints with this album. The first is that it’s not anything that hasn’t been done before. Their music is solid, but doesn’t stray far from the beaten path. The second is the constant use of “you” in their lyrics. There is not one track, from “Spectacle” to “Meghan Again” (1-11), that isn’t addressed lyrically to some unknown “you.” Not that there is anything wrong with a song from that point of view, but I’d like to be told a third-person narrative once in a while, or a personal reflection, just to mix things up.
They have a knack for using popular phrases in their lyrics -- some, used as is, such as “skating on thin ice” -- and some, variations of idioms: “Because if life is the means, what’s the end?” The lyrics have their ups and downs like everything else on the album, but in the end, they fit the style of their music.
Overall, it’s a good album with some minor problems. If you enjoyed their first album, New American Saint is worth checking out despite a slight change in sound. For anyone that’s unsure, they have the first full album streaming on their website (tokyorosenj.com) as well as four new songs on Myspace, and five on purevolume; if you don’t think it’s worth your money, it is worth at least ten minutes of your time to check it out for free.