Engine Down


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Virginia emo rockers Engine Down signed to West Coast punk-pop bastion Lookout! and hired hot producer Brian McTernan (Texas Is the Reason, Cave In, Thursday) to oversee their fourth album. Cynical hipsters might argue that these changes combine with the pretense of a self-titled album to create a deliberate rebranding of this once-edgy group into something more commercially palatable, and they might not be entirely wrong. McTernan's production is extremely glossy, with a radio-ready sheen at odds with the lo-fi angularity of Engine Down's earlier albums, and the group has largely dropped the math rocky fondness for tricky time signatures, unexpected shifts of dynamics, and unconventional instrumentation that was the trademark of early albums like Under the Pretense of Present Tense in favor of the straightforward alt-pop of songs like the driving "Cover." The good thing is that "Cover," with its surging power-chord verses and expansive chorus, and the Baroque ballad "In Turn" -- and indeed most of the rest of the album -- are memorable and tuneful pop-emo in the Staind/Jimmy Eat World tradition. (It helps hugely that singer Keeley Davis has finally learned to reel in his earlier tendency toward irritatingly melodramatic vocals in favor of a more modulated and diffident style.) Engine Down may be less unique than they once were. But that might not necessarily be a bad thing.

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