words by ANDREW BRANDT
“Ready To Go”
I’ve never conversed with Richie Follin—the man behind the moniker Guards—but I’m assuming it would be an awkwardly one-sided affair. If there’s one thing that the brother of Madeline Follin (one half of Cults) proves throughout his 45-minute debut, it’s that he has absolutely nothing to say. And while In Guards We Trust is an album chock-full of arena-demanding choruses, these (at times) fist-pumping anthems are so vague and one dimensional that we’re left wondering why our arms are in the air at all.
The album opens with “Nightmare”, an aptly titled, healthy heaping of an introduction. What follows on In Guards We Trust is nothing if not consistent: all twelve tracks promote washed out vocals, sun-stained guitars, scaling bass lines, and an active set of sticks. Most of the tunes are comprised of half-assed verses that give out to wailing guitars and larger than life choruses. And although that sounds slightly fun at a glance, twelve continuous tracks worth is, well, nightmarish.
Yet, artists like Guards do have a thriving, money-grabbing niche, and this will appeal to most hoping for a heat wave in January. Tracks like “Ready To Go”—a shiny-surfaced song with the positivity of an un-bloodied Andrew W.K.—and “Silver Lining”—which glimmers, shimmers, and shines (!)—radiate summer sun. However, the calculated repetition track after track after track results in rapidly diminishing returns. And therein lies the problem: Guards feels much too formulaic and isn’t having nearly enough carefree fun to properly represent their sound.
The album does hit somewhat of a stride midway with “Not Supposed To”, but unfortunately it sounds as if Richie did what he was not supposed to, and stole this one from big sis’s songbook. It is slick and stirs the hips—but not hard enough to shake the Cults comparisons. “I Know It’s You”, a synth driven ride groomed for an automobile ad spot, follows. It somehow manages to sound invigorating on the second side of this one-trick-pony of a record, and it’s the only song that doesn’t long overstay it’s welcome.
Nevertheless, the remainder of the second half is as unbearably non-differentiable as the first, capped off with “Coming True”: a phony, sugarcoated love song for no one, reminiscent of Free Energy. Truth be told, Guards just sound like a lot of other bands, and Richie sure deserves to garner comparisons to anything and everything from the past five years of radio-friendly “indie rock”.
Riding on a level of buzz no beehive could hope to contain, In Guards We Trust was destined to disappoint. Yet, the album ultimately suffers because the band puts too much trust in their guards. The generalized lyrics shrouded in reverb protect Richie by rendering anything he sings as essentially useless. Even if he did have something worthwhile to sing about in that potentially great voice, it gets lost in the layers.
In the end, In Guards We Trust leaves me wondering why this band—with nothing to add in or prove—even exists. For crying out loud, even the blandest of bands like Mumford & Sons or The Killers (at the very least) faked sweeping statements and weighty declarations their first times around. Those of us who crave summer all 12 months may spin this record now, but I can assure you that when warm days roll around, the only time I’ll be hearing In Guards We Trust is during the commercial breaks. [D]
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