self-titled – Graham Colton Band
Universal/Motown Records Group
The cross-pollination between rock and pop music has been a well-traveled road abounding with bumps, sharp turns and unattractive excursions. However, there have been exceptions. The saviors of the scene have been songwriters like John Mayer who secured tremendous respect from a variety of audiences with his astute musicianship. Much is the case with the Dave Matthews Band who, despite their propensity to jam, can craft a damn good pop song. These examples form a prickly patch for up-and-comers, increasing the standard for acute skill and complete originality.
Graham Colton Band stands near this prickly patch.
Formed by the band’s namesake, the group recently released their eponymous debut which stands somewhere in that often-infiltrated space between pop and rock. Along with front man and guitarist Colton, the band features a core of musicians including guitarists Turtle and Drew Nichols, bassist Ryan Tallent and a 17-year-old drummer named Jordan Elder.
Upon first listen, a nod to Paul Westerberg and his musical
prowess is evident; however, the band’s predictability prevails, substituted for The Replacement’s explosiveness. The 11 tracks on the album writhe under the weight of musical hits and misses – described as missives captured on the road – and even the most poignant lyrics are undone by the commonplace, standard-issue theme of yearning. Where the album does shine is in the production, bolstered by Brendan O’Brien’s (of Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam fame) expertise behind the control board. The producer is able to clarify the puddle of distorted guitars (three, although a far cry from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s triple threat attack) that prevail on the album, and, on a handful of tracks, like the acoustic "Morning Light" and the brooding "Send You a Note," the union between producer and band is clearly a success.
The Graham Colton Band may have intended to make an album full of unadulterated radio fare. If so, they have succeeded with a release that is catchy, accessible, and fairly consistent with the current FM dial. But the compositions flow with little contrast, and while musicians like Mayer and Matthews (not to mention talented inventive chart-toppers like David Gray and Coldplay) are speeding into new pop territory with fine tuned, fresh songwriting, Graham Colton band appears to be driving a Buick on a highway of pop-rock Corvettes.