â¦I thought it might just be possible for me to make the trip abroad, by plane, expenses be hanged. However, I've since discussed the matter rather extensively with my wife, a breathtakingly levelheaded girl, and we've decided against it.-- J.D. Salinger, "For Esme â With Love and Squalor"
I fucking hate scoring albums. Love writing about them -- hate having to grade them. It's too reductive. Scores imply that music, and art in general, isn't really subjective (which it is), that you can quantify everything an artist does into values divisible by x. But music can provoke so many different reactions for so many different reasons, and giving it a number doesn't always correlate. Sure, an album of true shit, devoid of all merit and meaning, deserves no stars (or in the Punknews case, half of a star). But what do I score an album that I feel indifferent towards? Ivoryline's There Came a Lion walks that fine line of indifference. I don't actively hate it, but I certainly don't love it. Since it's middle of the road record, does that warrant a smack-dab-in-the-middle rating of two-and-a-half to three stars? Or does banality deserve the same treatment as, say, hate language or sexism?
In J.D. Salinger's short story "For Esme â With Love and Squalor," a nameless solider, referred to only as Sergeant X, describes to his wife as "breathtakingly levelheaded." The line is funny because it subverts the old "breathtakingly beautiful" clichÃ©, but what really makes it striking is its damning description that does not rely on sarcasm, profanity, violence, or anything of that sort. Sergeant X's wife is horrid in her insurmountably unremarkable nature. To him, her existence is meaningless, loveless.
And that is how I feel about Ivoryline. The band hails from the nÃ¼-emo (numo?!) set, crafting spit-shined emotional pop drivel. There Came a Lion's 11 tracks are indistinct, both from each other and from similar Drive-Thru Records-y acts. Dudes thank God a lot in the liner notes, but the tunes are never too overwhelmingly religious. In fact, a lot of these tunes could be about anything. Take track three, "Parade," for example. The song repeats the line "This is your coming out parade" a bit. Right away, that makes me think it's a gay pride song, but the rest of the lyrics are so vague that the tune could easily be about losing one's virginity, suffering religious intolerance, getting caught masturbating to Playboy: 50 Years: The Photographs in a Barnes & Noble bathroom or something far more sinister.
There Came a Lion's arrangements cram a lot of dance beats and breakdowns into the mix, which might work if the production wasn't so darn tepid. Frontman Jeremy Gray loves operatic high notes, adding evidence to my theory that `00s emo = `80s hair metal, although at times he oddly recalls Anberlin or maybe even Ignite. Maybe I'm getting too old for this shit, but I can't get behind Ivoryline. Maybe if they stripped the production down a bit, maybe if they stopped sounding like every other band on the Take Action compilations, maybe if they fucking split their name into two words, I could find something to hold and keep. As is, though, no thanks. If you're 14, live in New Jersey, and think Jimmy Eat World's Chase This Light totally summed up your summer, maybe you'll dig Ivoryline. As for me, all I hear is mediocrity, and that is truly offensive.