War Tapes – “The Continental Divide”

“Everything you know is going away,” they tell us five seconds into this derivative excuse for alternative rock, which only manages to hide its cheesy goth-rock under a heavy smothering blanket of manic overproduction. But manipulative marketing aside, there’s nothing War Tapes brings to the table that hasn’t already been shined clean years ago by The Killers on the likes of Hot Fuss, or any other Hot Topic sludge for that matter. Everything you know isn’t going away, unless you’re alone in your room in the dark contemplating suicide while listening to this utterly disposable record.

On second thought, prolonged listening to the album could put you in just that situation. Perhaps it should come with a general safety warning.

Okay, so maybe I’m being a bit glib. But face it … I’ve had this album for nearly two months, and have listened to it at least thirty times through, way more times than it took to decide I couldn’t stand it, because I wanted to dig as deeply as possible to find any meaning beneath the surface which might make this a worthy purchase. Even as individual tracks, mind you. And I can’t for the life of me understand what sets this group apart from anyone they’ve been influenced by.

The Continental Divide is by-the-numbers goth-rock trying to hide itself under a powerful crunch of sludge. If you thought Metallica’s Death Magnetic pushed the volume envelope, you’re going to suffer excruciatingly if you have to play this on computer speakers – and the headphone experience isn’t significantly more clear or interesting. The real “continental divide” one encounters here is the gulf between music fans with the sense to avoid such dreck and those who find reasons to subject themselves to the torture under their own will.

I’ll use “She Lied” as an example, for sake of argument. The song itself is about a breakup. But it could also be about bestiality, necrophilia, abuse, murder … any number of goth cliches you’ve come to expect from shit like this. “All day long I sit and communicate with the dead corpse that I call my girlfriend,” he sings. “She’s only half of the girl that I met, see it takes true love to watch her decay.” Imagine this, coupled with a blast of guitars, bass and drums, sung by a vocalist who halfway growls his words in a low seedy voice before letting loose his inner Brandon Flowers with a high pitched pseudo-cathartic wail of remorse / release / ejaculatory self-indulgence. Ah, the sex fiend’s remorse … we’ve been there before too, and had it communicated in a much more inventive fashion. I, for one, prefer my dark moody rock with a touch more subtlety. I pray I’m not the only one.

Honestly, listening to this album repeatedly made me feel dirty, and I couldn’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t a self-hating desperate parody. This isn’t good music. It isn’t interesting music. It isn’t going to set itself apart enough from the pack to even be noticed on a wide scale. So why bother paying any attention? Let me be the only one who had to suffer the endurance test required to review it. You can remain blissfully ignorant of what it feels like to attempt the scrubbing of one’s brain with Brillo to remove the album’s memory. Consider yourself fully warned.

Reprinted with permission from Stereo Subversion.

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