It’s tough to release an album if you’re Walk The Moon when Taylor Swift comes out with her own highly anticipated album and Eminem releases a song with Beyonce on the same day.
Regardless, their fourth studio album, What if Nothing, hit stores this past Friday. Following a successful 2014, in which the mega-hit “Shut Up and Dance,” reached number one on the Billboard Alternative Chart and the Billboard Rock Songs chart, Nick Petricca and company try to catch that magic in a bottle once again for their fourth time around.
The 80s-inspired New Wave group from Ohio show a good level of consistency on their latest effort, alternating back-and-forth between producers Mike Crossey and Mike Elizondo, with Crossey doing most of the work. Ironically, with so much quirky production going on, What If Nothing lacks vigor and inventiveness. Instead, Walk The Moon throws together a record with material that sounds like something from any number of their alternative pop/rock contemporaries.
Much like on Nothing But Thieves’ new album earlier in the year, Mike Crossey couldn’t create anything more than tracks that could have been found on any 1975 or Arctic Monkeys album from the past. One of the few times that I don’t feel this way is on the very first song, “Press Restart.” The band has this atmospheric sound mixed with off-the-wall instrumentation that actually sounds a lot more modernistic, especially for a guy like Crossey. I especially like the almost Christmas-like approach to the background vocals at the very end of the track.
Even with the ridiculous lyrics on the following song, “Headphones,” (“I can take a beating like a good pair of headphones”) at least Elizondo brings some energy to the instrumentals, especially with the noisy guitar riff, and punk-like aesthetic.
Sadly, they couldn’t re-create the success of “Shut Up and Dance” this time around, but there is definitely an effort put forth on a few of these songs here. The problem is none of the styles of these tracks sound significantly different from an Imagine Dragons single, or a ballad from The 1975. Specifically, on the airy “Sounds of Awakening,” Petrrica uses the same exact auto-tune effect as Phil Collins on, “In the Air Tonight.”
“Kamikaze” is way too safe of a song, and again, it sounds like something off of Night Visions. The overblown chorus and a cluster of mixing is what makes this a little too disheveled. “One Foot” is another highlight on here that plays into what their strengths are, which rarely occurs. There’s enough interesting production going on, and it’s the closest thing to a radio hit that the group assembles on the record.
I’t difficult to really give credit to Crosser once again, because I still feel like he is taking previous mixings that he’s done with The 1975 and Arctic Monkeys, and applying them to his most recent works; Nothing But Thieves’ Broken Machine, and now Walk The Moon’s newest release. There are times where I can see the potential for something great, like on the very earthy and gorgeous “Feels Good to Be High,” but there are also points where playing it safe seems to be the norm, specifically on “Sound of Awakening.”
At the end of the day, it’ll be tough to remember many of these cuts, mostly because I feel like I’ve heard them before. It’s okay to be inspired by your heroes or even your fellow artists, but it’s also important to develop your own distinct sound. Walk The Moon definitely gives us the impression that they can continue to have a budding future. However, on What If Nothing, Petrrica and co. take the risk of not playing to their strengths on multiple occasions, and as a result, the product is a bland representation of pop/rock music.