Sound: New York's Flying Machines have been garnering some impressive comparisons in the months before their debut self-titled record's release. Queen, Ben Folds, The Strokes, Weezer, The Police and a wild assortment of other bands have been said to have similar styles, and it's true that you can find subtle elements of every genre/band/style within the Flying Machines. When it comes down to the basics, however, it's the Ben Folds and The Strokes (or perhaps even The Bravery) references that rings the most true. Although frontman William Ryan George has a more versatile voice than Folds, his piano/keyboard skills relay the same happy yet intricate style that you might hear in a track like Battle of Who Could Care Less. There is an undeniable pop vibe to the Flying Machines even with its use of guitars, but the material is still spot-on in terms of the melodic creativity.
The band opted for their riff-driven side to open the album with Talk About It, a track that is akin to The Bravery's Honest Mistake. Guitarist John Wlaysewski gets the spotlight in Talk About It, and he makes some intriguing choices effects-wise. George does have a moment where he takes to the piano and delivers a bit of a Latin breakdown, but for the most part this is an energetic song that is driven by a rock sound. It should be mentioned that as a vocalist, George shines from the first to the last track. He takes an opportunity in most of the songs to show his range, and his falsetto is amazing.
On A Whim and Patterns have the happy-go-lucky Folds vibe, with rich piano lines underlying most of the vocals. George is a master at creating lush vocal harmonies (particularly given that he is able to reach a much higher range than most male singers), and in many ways the vocals almost add another level of instrumentation. The biting/cynical vibe that you might hear in a Ben Folds song is not present, but there's so much going on in the audio mix that the Flying Machines are still able to hold one's interest without lyrical stimulation.
The Queen comparison has been popping up in bios, but that aspect of the band never becomes apparent until the last song Clearing The Boards. That particular track starts out with a grand, piano-driven melody, but there is a quality to George's voice that does broach Freddie Mercury territory. In the end it's the guitar work from Wlaysewski that captures the spirit of Brian May. Between the impressive solo work, pounding piano, and numerous musical sections, it's appropriate to deem Clearing the Boards as the epic number of the album. // 8
Lyrics: Although the musical aspect of the Flying Machines takes on a larger-than-life feel at times, the lyrical content remains fairly standard as far as pop rock bands go. Sample lyrics include lines such as, On a Whim; I'll come back so relax and breathe; Don't turn it in till we decide to face facts; All my worries are on to you. There's nothing that necessarily stands out about them, but they are not bad by any means. This is pretty much the case for the majority of the album, but again, the lush arrangements keep you occupied most of the time. // 7
Overall Impression: The pop-driven style to Flying Machines can be an acquired taste. I listened to the album a few times before truly starting to appreciate their sound. Once you start to hear the elaborate instrumentation that is happening within the album, you'll probably find yourself going back to hear the songs again and again. Although William Ryan George does steal the show most of the time by his vocals alone, the Flying Machines has an impressive rhythm section that has helped to create some intriguing arrangements. // 9