Sound — 7
Like just about everyone else, my first introduction to this band was their breezy hit "Rude," which was pretty much inescapable on the radio this summer. It's quite rare for a bouncy reggae-pop tune to become a #1 hit on the charts these days (Sugar Ray anyone?), so naturally I was curious to find out how the rest of the album is - are they destined to be a one-hit wonder or is there more beyond the surface? Fortunately, it's mostly the latter.
Although the reggae vibe of "Rude" does run through the rest of the record as well (and it can get annoying and gimmicky), a good chunk of the record - and most of the best songs here, in my opinion - are inclined more towards indie/alt rock territory, and even a little bit of dabbling in R&B/soul. The impact of The Wailers and The Police, who the band cites as a cornerstone in many interviews, is quite evident here.
Lyrics — 5
As you might have guessed in a genre like this, the lyrics are lightweight and fairly disposable, the usual musings about love/romance and every other pop song cliche that comes with it - although to be fair, on most of the record they're not nearly as cringe-worthy as "Rude." For the most part, they range from sappy to amusingly corny, so it's clear that these guys are anything but "rude" when it comes to relationships.
However, the lyrics fit the catchy melodies and generally upbeat vibe of the music pretty well. Frontman and main songwriter Nasri is a decent singer/crooner too, although his vocals are not particularly distinctive or stand out. His voice seems more suited to the alt rock-inclined songs here rather than reggae, which - although competently done - comes off as rather gimmicky.
Overall Impression — 6
Sure, this genre might have been done to death and is probably way out of place on the charts in 2014 (which is why this record piqued my interest), but it's a superficially engaging, fun pop record that's got at least three solidly good tunes worthy of being hit singles. I personally found the non-reggae songs on the record - "No Evil," the Bruno Mars-y "Paradise" and the alt rock-flavoured title track (which is probably the best tune here) - to be much better than "Rude."
The songs' hit potential shouldn't come off as a surprise, considering that frontman/songwriter Nasri cut his teeth as a mercenary songwriter (as part of "The Messengers" production team) for major pop acts such as Justin Bieber, Chris Brown and Shakira. The band grooves tightly throughout the record (a make-or-break point for reggae) and these guys are all seasoned pros in terms of playing ability.
Don't expect to be blown away by this record in any sense, but it's inoffensive and catchy enough to hopefully get these guys beyond the dreaded one-hit wonder territory.