Just ask Tom Delonge what happens when a band tries to do too much. When they try to use too many delay pedals, when they draw the songs out much longer than need be, or when they just add a lot of unnecessary elements to an album to give it that ‘epic,’ grandiose feel. Even he himself may not admit the pitfalls of taking such actions, but most who heard We Don’t Need to Whisper would certainly speak of the problems those actions present.
Well, many of the same problems on that record are problems on Red Orchestra Radio’s The Electric Sleep as well. They almost mirror each other, the exception being the vocals of Ben Lowe versus the vocals of Tom Delonge. The former fares much better in this kind of setting, because he can actually change his inflections to match the song's rhythm at that time. He’s got a very honest quality to his sound that could easily call to mind Daryl Palumbo in the moments he’s not shredding his vocal cords in two.
So for those counting at home, that’s one member of the band who’s doing a good job on the record and contributing his talents in the best possible light. The problems arise because there’s six people in this band -- that’s five who aren’t doing anything of real merit and five who don’t quite grasp the concept of brevity.
The shortest song of the six present on the album is right around the four-and-a-half-minute mark, with three of the other five at at least five minutes, the longest going over 13. For a band who can keep the songwriting interesting for that long, alright, but Red Orchestra Radio simply recycle a lot of the same guitar tones and tremelo effects in a different order, hoping no one will really pay any mind to it.
“Hypogenic Hallucination” begins with some twinkling guitars and light tapping of the cymbals, before Lowe’s soaring vocals enter the fold and the guitars pick it up a couple notches. Sounds alright, doesn’t it? Well it is, but the problems are a result of this same pattern being repeated a couple times throughout the course of the song; it simply loses its novelty. Bits and pieces of the instrumentation are spectacular, but the track as a whole lacks the dynamics it needs to stay interesting throughout. By the time it concludes, it feels like half an hour’s gone by. That’s the problem they keep running into. They’ll have some great individual ideas, but try too hard to take things to an epic scale, and not quite hard enough to keep it grounded at keep it interesting.
Whether it was too much ambition, or just the inability to understand how too make long song structures work, Red Orchestra Radio simply tried for too much. I know there’s talent in the band, I can feel the hunger in Ben Lowe’s voice, but they couldn’t pull it all together and make anything more than decent background music.