Splender Plays it Safe on Debut

Splender - Halfway Down The Sky
(Columbia Records)
2 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

From the cliched, arena-rock guitar flash and catchy power-pop melodies of Splender's debut album Halfway Down The Sky, it seems apparent that this New York-based quartet aren't particularly concerned with current trends in music. Nowhere on the album are the hip-hop beats, turntable scratchings or crude rapping that have permeated into just about all pop culture, including even waffle commercials. They've also passed up techno, industrial and hardcore metal / rap inbreeding in favor of straight-forward American pop rock songs with more hooks than a meat locker, that often work in light of being a little behind the times.
On Halfway Down The Sky singer / songwriter / guitarist Waymon Boone has written a collection of safe, middle-of-the-road songs that are almost guaranteed for heavy airplay on what has become, somewhat deceivingly, known as alternative rock radio.
A light, airy guitar lilts over Boone's warm vocals on "Yeah, Whatever", their first single from the album, before he breaks into an indelible, passionate chorus with buzzing chunks of guitar work from lead guitarist Jonathan Svec. The ghosts of grunge are resurrected and coated with a saccharine sheen on "Monotone" and "Cigarette", a gentle number with Kurt Cobain-like droning alongside Boone's clean, powerful vocals. The rhythm section of James Cruz (bass) and Marc Slutsky (drums) hammers out a wonderfully infectious measure on "Spin", while on "Supernatural" they add a oddly timed beat behind Svec's guitar antics.
Although most of the album is pleasing, in an almost nostalgic way, there are a couple of moments that, when they let their edginess down, become bogged down as on the weak radio fodder of "Spaceboy" and the sappy ballad "I Think God Can Explain", which sounds like it would've worked better for poster-boys N-Sync or The Backstreet Boys than for themselves.
On Halfway Down The Sky Splender doesn't seem to care too much if they're shaking any trees or not, just as long as they get the radio play they're bound to get with their safe,somewhat agreeable style of pop rock.

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