A horrible hack

By Surprise

Mountain Smashers

Year Released: 2011
Format: LP
Label: Topshelf Records
Reviewed by Andy Malcolm on Apr 7, 2011
By Surprise have been knocking around for a while now, battling it out with a horde of other bands for recognition. Previously they had stood out to me for having a handy knack of penning a decent pop tune. So I was looking forward to giving this album a whirl.

Things struggle out of the blocks though with the repetitious and lumbering "Books by Thoreau" and group vocals. Not really the best advert for the band but perhaps a way of introducing things. This crashes into the more lively "Realometer", which is pretty much a Braid tribute song. Again, I am struggling with the vocals here, each guy chimes in and it's not particularly cohesive. It's two minutes twenty and it feels longer, I kept looking at my watch. When do we get to the smart song writing and fun poppy stuff that I was expecting? Fortunately the album does contain some tracks that do help them stand out from everyone else attempting this sound of late. Songs such as "Last Chance to See" simplify things greatly and it allows the band to shine, I think they are at their best when there is only one guy handling the vocals and the instruments are allowed to breathe rather than compete. Slowing it all down is a great tactic in a scene where over-complicating things seems to be de rigueur.

So there are times where they show off that they are an adept band that clearly is capable of writing a very good album, it's just that Moutain Smashers isn't quite that record. There are flashes of excellence, but there are times when the possible influence of peers or a desire to sound just a little bit too much like a modern version of Braid (no need, now that Braid have returned) have kind of held them back, or at least it feels that way to me.

By Surprise are nearly there. This album won't take you "By Surprise" (AHA-HA), it doesn't really flow and it comes across like a band that has a variety of indie rock influences which they want to cram into 30 minutes, but there are plenty of pleasing moments and solid songs on this album to enjoy and hint that they might yet make a really strong album. Especially when they drop the gang vocals.

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