Title: Nothing’s Different, Nothing’s the Same
CD Baby Link
Though highly derided and scoffed at by so-called musical elites, well-written and well-performed pop is a tricky beast to tame. When executed with perfection, it practically ensures stardom; when mishandled, it's worse than karaoke. The LA-based collaborative East of Fairfax falls into neither category, lacking just another coat or two of polish to turn their heart-on-sleeve sensitivity into worldwide domination. Though their sophomore release Nothing's Different, Nothing's the Same presents all the proper pieces, the final product is perhaps a tad too calm, a tad too serene, and perhaps even a tad too derivative (even for pop) to leave a lasting impact. The result is Daughtry on Ritalin – talented and smooth, but stuck in the clouds once too often.
East of Fairfax's double-edged sword is frontman Brian Spain, the perfectly-named crooner whose charisma will either be a priceless boon to the band's career or else its death. Spain and Spain alone is plastered on the paraphernalia, raising questions as to whether the group – which includes a great deal of guest players – is merely a supporting rung for his own talent. That's not to say that the Spain-as-headliner strategy isn't smart; indeed, with ample amounts of confidence and personality behind the mic, Spain has the standard qualifications for an arena rock vocalist. Trouble is, Nothing's the Same doesn't offer that sort of blistering sing-along fare, and is more apt for quiet coffee-house sipping than crowd-spanning idolatry.
The lack of fire is Fairfax's biggest hurdle towards forging some kind of distinguishable identity. Opening track "More Than The Sun" is better for a drive in southern Cal than as an eye-raising introduction, and wastes a golden chance at lasting impressions. Furthermore, the mystique of songs like "Feel This Too" and "Ready For Descent" should theoretically provide a more muscular display than the result allows, as little soul ends up escaping the polished gleam. The overarching impression is that Fairfax has accomplished the latter half of every artist's career hurdle – slick professionalism, solid musicianship, studio presence, and the like – but not the elementary steps; that is, rugged originality and group chemistry that separates shepherds from the flock. The meandering "Time & Space" is a perfect example of this: what should be a splendid piano piece is instead rather murky, rich in everything but a notable melody to tie all the emotions together.
East of Fairfax – and thus, Nothing's Different, Nothing's the Same – are easy to like, but difficult to love. Some of the puzzle pieces work and some do not, which is to be expected, but even the good is often marred by a tendency to hem and haw. The record puts much of its effort into trying to please and befriend its listeners, when instead it should be knocking them onto their backs. That is the general essence of power pop, as even the most radio-friendly of bands know how to put intrigue and volume to good use. Fairfax needs to unbolt and unchain the raw elements if they are ever to finish the oft-started,rarely-completed conquest of pop stardom.
Kevin Liedel, MuzikReviews.com Sr. Staff Editor
April 24, 2009
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01.More Than the Sun
02.Feel This Too
03.Time + Space
05.Letter to a Friend
06.Get in the Game
07.I Could See Us Together
09.For All This Time
10.Ready for Descent
11.Until You Say Goodbye