I canít fault them for doing it well. The Class of 98 fit in perfectly on a Militia Group roster chock full of bands with catchy hooks, harmonies, and fangless guitar work. Itís not that the band doesnít have any sort of power at all, itís that where they do show it, itís so harmless and reserved that youíd never even think twice. It fits in well with their style I suppose, but a few notches in the distortion tuning couldnít have hurt things.
People will have to accept Touch This and Die! just how it comes, however, and for many, thatíll be more than enough. The band has a real solid songwriting sense, and their mid-tempo pop-rock tunes are as infectious as they come. They might have chosen style over substance, but it doesnít appear to be too bad of a choice for them right now.
In fact, Iím actually quite surprised that this band isnít bigger than they are right now. Being on The Militia Group, I doubt it will stay that way, but fans of Cartel and Acceptance are going to absolutely love these tightly wound melodies and well-crafted choruses. And, the start-and-stop vocals in the chorus of the album opener, ďEverywhere You Go,Ē is indicative of just whatís left to be found elsewhere on the record. Singer Steve Wilson has a voice of gold, smooth and delicate, but able to pack a formidable punch when heís really stretching for those high notes and drawn out syllables; heís easily the band's most impressive weapon. Engaging without being whiny or nasally in the slightest, each song already has something going for it simply because heís singing.
What does somewhat lack is the instrumentation. I donít expect to see raging guitars or crazy time signatures, but the fact is a lot of the guitar playing, and drumming especially, seems rather lazy and uninspired. Thereís plenty of ways to put passion into your playing without it being loud or heavy, and none of the possibilities are truly explored on the record. Itís only on ďHundreds and Thousands of StarsĒ that the instrumentation is kicked up a little bit, but that track exposes another problem: lyrics. The lyrics on this output are trite and rehashed from every other pop-rock band around right now. Once again, Iím not looking for a beacon of creativity or originality, but they need to go that extra mile to separate themselves from the crowded pack.
The album has some really great tunes, but most of the better moments can be contributed to Steve Wilsonís vocals, not his guitar playing, and not the guitar, bass, or drum work of everyone else. Itís all standard fare when the vocals are far past that. Regardless, thereís some fun to be had here, providing youíre willing to wade through the swirls of mediocrity.