Smother are, without question, a band who wish to rock. And rock they do. Rest assured that your rock quota will be filled to the brim over these 11 full-blooded tracks. But for the most part, this is rock at a base level, brash and streotypical teen-angst. The title Great White Hoax (see what they did there?) prefaces an LP intent on sticking it to society, and sometimes it takes more than rock to do that successfully.
Interestingly, this Essex three-piece, who have been compared to our beloved Biffy Clyro, have far more of a whiff of Godsmack about them through much of this debut album. Notice the heavily twanged delivery of words like “off” in the Last Go Round, a track Marilyn Manson could easily fit into his God Of F**K routine. Only trouble is, with Smother, I don’t see a rubber corset in sight.
Opening track This Generation Cannot Say No starts promisingly enough with a bristling riff that could have been lifted from any Foo Fighters record, but falls short of true quality due to the rigidity of its verse-chorus-bridge structure.
Subtlety was certainly not the order of the day when creating this record. From song titles to lyrics to musical phrases, we have an album that is straighter and more to the point than a Backstreet Boys/Blue collaboration.
Certainly, this has its advantages, the opening bars of tracks such as The Purest Meate jump out of the speakers on first listen, but the flipside of this technique is that nothing is left to be discovered thereafter. In fact it may not even take an entire playing to grow tired of Curiosity Killed The Sexes, a track that ably demonstrates how to batter to death a striking title through constant, constant, constant repetition.
Yet despite such moments of monotony, Great White Hoax has its peaks, particularly when frontman Luke Branch latches onto a catchy melody (these moments are lifted beyond measure by the backing vocals of fellow members Leon Marshall and Dave Lucas). Use is one such moment of rabble-rousing potential, the thudding tribe-like rhythms with which the band chant “Try everything but still I’m unsatisfied” show the advantages of their unambiguous riff-rock policy, though eyebrows may be raised as Branch growls “so give suicide to our campaign”.
The clean guitar channel is discovered in following track You Don’t Have To Say A Thing, where a softer approach works well. Branch’s vocals emerge with a new dimension of gentle clarity, there is even a reverb-strewn wailing breakdown to enjoy from the singer here, similar to the recent mellower material of AFI, impressive indeed. But it does not dethrone Find A Happy Place as the highlight track, the combination of spiky guitar rhythms with flowing vocal melody is a skill greatly underused on this album, but here it is exhibited in all its Dredg-like glory, along with a typically shout-inducing chorus, a useful acquisition should this number emerge as one of the forthcoming singles.
Put together from the pennies earned by cleaning toilets, you would forgive Smother for having something to be angry about. In laying their frustration on the line so blatantly however, the band appear to have become overly enveloped in howling their anguish, and subsequently the quality of song suffers. We are fully aware of the pitfalls of our society, and these days it takes something more creative and imaginative than this to stimulate much interest.