Over the past ten years or so, there have been countless reasons to be skeptical of "The" bands. I don't feel the need to elaborate so much on that; taking a look at the emo and/or monotonous sound that seems to be cluttering the music scene should sum it all up. Unsure of what to think of 'emo pop-punkers' The Ataris, I must admit that my interest was heightened after hearing their hit single "In This Diary". It seemed like the perfect song to listen to before senior year of high school; its simple, appropriate reflection doesn't stray too much into disgustingly gushy emo territory (okay, so maybe it does -- but it's a good song, I swear!).
In all honesty, though, it was the band's cover of Don Henley's cool anthem "The Boys of Summer" that really got my attention. No shame in saying that I simply adore that song. So, let's observe the 'cause and effect' of this particular situation: Sheila hears two songs that she likes, Sheila goes and buys So Long, Astoria.
Kris Roe - vocals/guitar
John Collura - guitar/backing vocals
Mike Davenport - bass
Chris Knapp - drums
Going into this listening experience, I'd heard the annoyed longtime Ataris fans insisting that this was their "sell-out album". So, I feel like I must let everyone know right off -- hey -- I'm not going to even pretend that I know of their stuff outside this album. Therefore, I won't be making references to their previous sounds, because I haven't got a clue. One thing's for sure though: you know, I hate that term "sell-out"... what does... okay, no straying off-topic. Ahemmmm.
Where to start? The opening title track, complete with stale emo lyrics, really makes me hurt. Roe's voice is absolutely horrific here, sounding like nothing more than a shrill person bawling their eyes out, all while calling it singing. The song arrangement is none too impressive, sounding like the band randomly got together and decided to bang on their instruments and deem it a 'song'. "In This Diary" thankfully chooses to present itself soon enough. The medium-tempo, gritty, simple soft rock anthem has a 1970's vibe. Roe's voice presents itself in a much better form here, etched with genuine ache and longing for old, happier memories. "My Reply" is another pleasant listen, very radio-friendly and accessible. Playing it safe by staying in the vein of the slow-to-medium soft rock sound, Roe gets a little annoyingly shrill during some parts of the song, but overall, it mainly stays okay.
Another sure highlight comes in the form of "The Saddest Song", an innocent yet somewhat saccharine dedication to Roe's child. Roe refers to his own father's absence from his life, and begs, "[I] hope someday you'll find it in your heart / to understand why I'm not around / and forgive me, for not being in your life." "The Boys of Summer", also known as the sole remaining redeeming factor of So Long, Astoria, still impresses me. Overplayed -- whatever; I love it. That aching chorus just jumps at me. The equally enjoyable, driving verses segue without a misstep in sight.
A huge problem with So Long, Astoria not only lies in the fact that there are too many unforgivably lame songs that make me cringe and shudder. For example, "Unopened Letter to the World" starts out fine enough, but is absolutely killed when Roe changes from a pleasant tone against gentle acoustics to the same awfully off-key voice so prevalent in the album's opening track. Unmemorable and boring songs also overstay their welcome on the disc, bogging things down to say the least. "Radio #2" is pathetic in all aspects, as Roe whines, "It's about time that we turned off the radio!"
The gleaming moments in So Long, Astoria often fade over time, and what you're left with is an "emo punk"/alternative rock disc that is stale and generic, not to mention largely unimpressive lyrically and in aspects of instrumentation. It is not a disc that can be listened to all the way through, as it lacks a defining consistency and fails to show much personality of the band that can set them apart as anything special from all the other "The" whiny emo bands with lead singers who have jagged pieces of hair over their eye. Surprise, surprise.
1. so long, astoria (3:22)
2. Takeoffs and Landings (3:56)
3. In This Diary (3:54)
4. My Reply (4:14)
5. Unopened Letter to the World (2:38)
6. The Saddest Song (4:15)
7. Summer '79 (3:57)
8. The Hero Dies in This One (4:07)
9. All You Can Ever Learn is What You Already Know (3:31)
10. The Boys Of Summer (4:18)
11. Radio #2 (3:20)
12. Looking Back on Today (3:53)
13. Eight of Nine (3:30)
Great Music To Play While: stealing an emo kid's lunch money