Sound — 8
Melodic rock comes in many distinguished forms. For Cape Town-born Civil Twilight, melodic rock gels the molten clusters of Oasis, the vibrating guitar shivers of U2, the reflective musings of Coldplay, the wind-tunnel flames of Pilot Speed, and the synth-laden cyclones of Augustana. Civil Twilight's music is a union of all these factors in their self-titled release from Wind-Up Records, producing a synthesis that has both melodic appeal and plush arcs sowed along the chord progressions. From the start, the listener is hooked by the windy blazes and explosive surges of guitarist Andrew McKellar, powered by the magnetic vocals of his brother Steven McKellar whose throbbing ripples in his bass playing and emotive piano cuts are sealed by soft wedges made by their drummer Richard Wouters. The tracks grab you like a friendly hand pulling you out of a slump. The synth-clad ducts of Human have a connective pull from the first listen, and the power rock transistors that spike Anybody Out There have a resemblance to the resonating wavelets of U2's Unforgettable Fire period. There is an 80s synth-pop feel to some of the songs, but the music never feels dated or locked in the past. Civil Twilight have a present day sound. If anything, they have improved on the staples of melodic rock conditions and synth-inflamed features. The wind-tunnel effects of What You Want are glorious, and the substantive tissue in Soldier are anchored in pop punk angst funneling a leviathan of chomping guitar crunches and rampant drumbeats. The soft piano beading of Steven's keys in Next To Me is trussed in mountains of burly guitar vibrations, and the wispy piano strokes of On The Surface have a holistic lift. The songs seep into your skin and can be a applied to a number of different circumstances that someone is going through in life. In other words, each song can mean something different to every individual. The soft broiling vibrations of the guitar chords chroming the seams of Trouble are calming on the senses, and the weeping feel of the piano keys in Human project a subtle glint of optimism. Though the tracks are perfectly polished, there is an attraction about Human that touches raw feelings. The heavy beats lining Perfect Stranger create a viable traction that pulls the listener forward, and the lucite-coating of the guitar's texture in Something She Said makes the music slippery and enables the synth-clad vibrations to slide smoothly. The folksy feel of Quiet In My Town has a whispery lilt embedded in the guitar strokes and softly lit vibrations. It ends the album with a soothing and optimistic message.
Lyrics — 8
Some lyrics have a general meaning like in Human when Steven reflects, It's only love / It's only pain / It's only fear that runs through my veins / It's all the things we can't explain / That make us human. Other lyrics verbalize dreams like in Letters From The Sky as Steven swears, One day soon, I'll hold you like the Sun holds the Moon / And we will hear those planes overhead and we won't have to be scared You're coming back for me. And then there are lyrics that vividly describe reality like in Soldier, making such declarations like I don't stop till the end of the show / I don't stop till my country says so / I don't know why I raise this Hell / I'm just a solider / Fighting for someone else / I got a big ol' family / I got a wife and she's waiting at home for me / I cleanse my sins as I walk through that door / It doesn't matter who I killed before. It's a very sobering track that leaves a clump in the listener's throat.
Overall Impression — 8
Steven McKellar tells in a recent press release that the band's objective in making the album is altruistic in nature, we hope the listener might discover something of the goodness of life. Civil Twilight's songs apparently strike a chord with themes that a number of television shows explore, evidenced by the band's songs being placed in TV shows like Human during an episode of House and Without A Trace, Quiet In My Town in One Tree Hill, and Letters From The Sky in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Civil Twilight's self-titled release is an album that speaks to people on a personal level while making the music sensitive to their general liking. The album has mass appeal and touches each individual in a different way, but always impacting them in a significant way very similarly to U2 through their Unforgettable Fire stage and others of U2's ilk from the 80s.