Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Album Review: Courage My Love - Becoming

Album Rating: B-
It's entirely possible that Becoming is an example of a young pop-punk group maturing nicely. The songs are more varied, there's a noticeable lack of chugga-chugga-chugga breakdowns, and there are some excellent slower songs that would have felt totally out of place on For Now. However, it's more probable that this EP shows Courage My Love with far more resources with which to record. The eminently marketable Ontario trio is releasing Becoming on a branch of Warner Music, and everything here displays significantly more polish than was evident on previous releases. The guitars are sharper, the songwriting itself is more "genre-standard," and the vocal harmonization is better executed.

On the note of songwriting, this is an exceedingly safe release. It appears Warner Music has given the green light to everything they know will sell, and while the EP is most certainly in line with the band's previous material it feels rather standard in terms of what a poppier pop-punk release is "supposed" to sound like. If For Now was a trio of teenagers goofing off and having fun with some upbeat pop-punk, Becoming is lead singer and guitarist Mercedes Arn-Horn realizing she has goods that will sell (sex pun not intended) and shaping herself very intentionally in the likeness of the various Hayley Williamses and Jenna McDougalls of the scene. It's not a bad release, of course, but there's a definitive case of the band realizing they have an image that will sell rather well, and cooking up songs that, while not being lazy in the slightest, feel catered to the specific crowd who's supposed to eat up music from three attractive "punk" young'uns. (It's worth noting that the band's old bassist, one who I noted in a previous review didn't quite fit the image of the band, quit Courage My Love this past December and was replaced by a heavily tatted teenager/young-20-something with perfect faux-hardcore hair, face, and body.)

I can't stress enough, though, that despite my moderate scorn for the band's new focus on image and songs that match, Becoming is all right. There's a fair amount of variety here, from the clean guitar- and piano-driven anthemic opener "Skin And Bone" to the more upbeat lead single "You Don't Know How" which showcases the group's talent for by-the-books pop-punk. Once the album becomes less about being "true pop-punk" and more about aiming for a good pop album with power chords, booming kicks, and rock song structures, probable initial disappointment gives way to appreciation of how pleasant the band's sound is given enough production experience. As mentioned before, Warner Music has evidently given the group a fair bit of resources for producing and mastering the EP, and Courage My Love has spent whatever they've gotten quite effectively. Everything is crisper and cleaner, from the vocals to the clean guitar picking to the thudding percussion. The EP is ear candy - it's sweet and pleasing, no matter what your take on the music is.

However, "ear candy" alone isn't enough to save a middling release. Becoming unfortunately seems catered to the people who will eat up both music and image without regard to how the former actually sounds, and the release suffers as a result. The band has realized they have a lot they can market - who wouldn't buy music from a hot guitarist, hot drummer, and cute bassist? The music, sadly, reflects this revelation, and it's unfortunate that the band's sense of "fun" didn't carry over well from For Now. So much for "maturing" - this is more along the lines of "cashing out" on something that's worked in the past and will continue to work for years.


1. Skin And Bone
2. Cold Blooded
3. Unfamiliar Sheets
4. Lost Cause
5. You Don't Know How
6. All I Need
7. We're Not In Kansas Anymore
8. Dark Wood, Dark Water

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