Greycoats: Setting Fire to the Great Unknown

It's not uncommon for young bands to have wide-screen ambitions, but it's far more rare for a band to project an accomplished, melodic, and sweeping cinematic vision on their first album. From the moment the interlocking chugging and chiming guitars of "Learning to Remain" sweep away an opening wash of garbled static and noise, it's clear that Greycoats have set their sights squarely on the lavish, epic pop of bands like Coldplay, Muse, and Keane, and that, furthermore, they're actually going to pull it off with Setting Fire to the Great Unknown. Singer/guitarist Jon Reine's smooth voice tips icily into falsetto in all the right spots, and thunderous drums and fuzzy bass evaporate into acoustic strumming and feathery beds of Mellotron with consummate skill. "An Echo in the Dark" glides darkly on strings and a delicately played glockenspiel as woodwinds sigh restlessly against Reine's melancholy lyrics. The slashing guitars and propulsive drums of "Make Me Like the Moon" stir darker waters more aggressively. For listeners nursing a hurt and inclined to pick themselves out in song, Setting Fire will most likely provide a measure of solace.

For the rest of us, however, Greycoats' debut effort lacks a single defining song that can rise above the general excellence of the record as a whole. That's not a knock, exactly, and, in fact, Greycoats seem to be right on the doorstep of creating such a song several times here—the woody harmonies of "Goodbye, Sweet Youth, Goodbye" come closest—but there's no one hook or chorus arresting enough to stick firmly in your head. For all their durability, such songs (think "Wonderwall" or "Yellow") are ephemeral when it comes to their writing, but Setting Fire seems to indicate that Greycoats are just a few words or melodies away from doing more than meeting their grand ambitions—they may just transcend them.

 
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