Brit-grunge: Nothing Special

Symposium - On The Outside
(Red Ant Entertainment)
2 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

Snotty punk-pop soiling the grubby denim sounds of grunge rock is hardly what you'd expect from a quintet of lads from England, a country that has spawned so many second-rate Beatle-esqe Brit-pop bands within the last few years, that it could give Paul McCartney a guilt complex. But the London-based band Symposium has done just that, melding the distinct English sounds of punk and ska with the more Americanized stylings of early pop and grunge rock.
The American alternative rock element in their music shouldn't really come as too much of a surprise, considering that for the the last four years they've been touring extensively throughout major European summer festivals, including Reading and Glastonbury in England and Rockamring in Germany, backing up U.S. heavy-weights Smashing Pumpkins, Red Hot Chili Peppers, No Doubt, Rage Against The Machine and The Foo Fighters.
On their first full length album, On The Outside, bandmembers Ross Cummings (vocals), Wojtek Godzisz (bassist and songwriter), Joe Birch (drummer) along with guitarists Hagop Tchaparian and William McGonagle display all the crude, raw energy of post-punk darlings Green Day with the pop know-how of Cheap Trick complete with a mosh-pit friendly demeanor.
Although never offering anything really new, these boys - half of which aren't even old enough to toss back a pint at a hometown pub - manage to pull off a portion of the album, if only through shear exuberance. Sure, the predictable pop number "Bury You" blatantly nick's it's opening melody from Green Day's "When I Come Around", and never mind that when things slow down, as on "Circles, Squares and Lines" and "Blue", that Cummings voice is painfully fragile and rangeless. It's the fleeting moments of runaway youth that gives this band it's edge, however infrequent they may be.
When Symposium is firing on all eights, as on the revved-up inbreeding of Sex Pistols-punk and Madness-ska on "Puddles" and "Fizzle", as well as "Way" where they find the perfect blend of pleasing pop, sugary harmonies, noisy guitars and snotty attitude, they prove to be engaging little outfit. It's a shame, however, that a good deal of the album is best summed up by the title of the song "Nothing Special".

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