The Higher - It's Only Natural (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Higher

It's Only Natural (2009)


It's Only Natural, eh? Natural? Is that a reference to the windswept locks on the cover of this album coyly indicating that the drapes do in fact match the carpet? Or is it natural referring to the totally kewl Magnum P.I. t-shirt and sport coat look that exactly half of this band is rocking on that same cover, as if to say to us "It is a completely randomly occurring event that we showed up on this beach in matching and colour-coded clothing, honestly, we swear it."? Still it might be a reference to how they hope to organically meld the sounds of emo, pop and R&B. Well, Big Daddy Kane once told me as a little girl that there ain't no half-steppin' and these cats aren't fooling anyone; their whole style and sound is deliberately manufactured to appeal to the lowest common denominator of music listener.

Emo? Pop? R&B? If you are anticipating a mind-blowing mix of Indian Summer, the Format and vinatage Isley Brothers you will be sorely disappointed. Songs like "Try Again" and "Burn and Turn" point to a sanitized version of Fueled By Ramen styled nü-emo-pop complete with drooping synths and slick over-produced vocals. They are songs conveying some vague emotion about someone somewhere doing something. Some might call it universality but those people are deluded by the comfy feeling of the business end of a pole courtesy of their wishy-washy fence-sitting. These songs are simply junk.

Acknowledging that there are different strokes and sucks for different folks you might be asking yourself "This album can't pull my heartstrings but it is a pop record so can it at least help me sing along as I flaunt my station and privilege with a relaxing drive to the mall to meet my peeps?" Unfortunately, the straight-up pop songs are best described as sort-of-kind-of-melodic fluff lacking real catchiness. Take the title track: It ends up sounding like a third-rate Wham! ripoff, and if it wasn't for a halfway decent guitar solo it'd be utterly useless. We get it boys, you like `80s and `90s top 40 vocal group music. Here is a hint: You are doing it wrong. I'd almost rather watch Donnie Wahlberg's geriatric ass gyrate on stage than listen to these "songs."

By far my biggest gripe with this album is the band's assertion that it is in any way an R&B outfit. The one-two open-handed slap of "Other Options" and "Undertaker" sniffs at that crotch Justin Timberlake except without talent of producers like Timbaland and Neptunes or JT's sense of melody and range. Rhythm? I guess, but I wouldn't want to see any of these guys dance. Blues? To borrow from George Carlin: These guys are the reason people get the blues.

This album might be satisfying if your parents played Toto albums for you while you were in the womb thinking it was soulful. It's Only Natural is the Crystal Pepsi of music, calculated marketing of the original but without the ability to stick with you because it doesn't even have that ability to sickeningly stain your teeth with its sweet pop. It is only made worse that this isn't the Higher's first attempt at music. Pass on this unless you are intentionally trying to make sure other people don't want to have a conversation with you ever again and you loathe human contact. Stick with Panic! [sic] At the Disco, friends.