Sound — 7
There's been an obvious popularity for bands that take you back to the '80s -- The Killers and The Bravery at the head of the line -- and one new band called Test Your Reflex could fit easily into that mix. Test Your Reflex definitely has a New Wave feel in much of its music, so when they booked a show opening for Blondie, it probably was no mistake. While Test Your Reflex's debut record The Burning Hour doesn't quite have the creative strength that The Killers' Hot Fuss does, many of the band's songs prove that it has the potential to have a solid fan base. The band notes its influences range from U2 and Peter Gabriel, but there does seem to be more of a Cure feel to its debut CD. From guitarist R.C.'s phrasing to vocalist Ryan Levine's delivery, The Cure just oozes through. Now that's not a bad thing by any means, but the band just can't reach the originality of the legendary band at this point in it's career. Test Your Reflex still has a very listenable, pleasing sound, and younger fans might not even be distracted by the comparison. The high point on The Burning Hour easily is the song Black Hearts. It's one of the more energetic songs on the CD and it has a great underlying guitar line during the chorus. Granted the intro sounds like it's straight from The Cure (go to its MySpace site and have a listen), but that doesn't last long. When you combine the strong guitar work with the melodic vocals, Black Hearts is an incredibly infectious song that has hit single written all over it. Sure, you can hear a little Robert Smith vibe in the vocals in this track as well, but a good song is a good song. The band nails this one. The Burning Hour has some fantastic keyboard additions from Andrew Ampaya in it, and it would have been great to hear even more of that. There is more of a piano sound heard softly underneath Do We Belong, giving that song a bit different sound than the more synth-driven songs. While each track has a few inspired elements like the one heard in Do We Belong, not all of the tracks are quite interesting enough to warrant a hit. If the band can transfer over that same catchiness heard in Black Hearts to future songs, Test Your Reflex will be a band to be watched.
Lyrics — 7
There is a lot of sentimental content in the songs, and that could appeal to the more emo crowd. I don't mind a love song by any means, but at times, there's a predictable rhyme scheme, which can be a bit troublesome. In I Won't Follow You Levine sings, It's getting pretty late; We spoke for just an hour and I don't feel that great; It's nothing that you said; It's just thee pictures I don't want to see running through my head. Okay, it could be easy to draw on another comparison to The Cure with it's song Pictures Of You, but that really isn't the theme of Test Your Reflex's song. What we've got here is just your run-of-the-mill love song. It's fine, but that's pretty much the extent of it. There's just a lot more the band could have done with the lyrics to break the mold. The same sort of sentimentality is heard in Thinking Of You, and the lyrics still remain fairly average. Levine sings, When it's over and we part; You'll remain inside my heart: You see, I can't forget your face, your face, your face. It's not that the lyrics are necessarily bad, it's just that they seem too familiar. To play devil's advocate, everything has been done in love songs, so it's a tough task to write a completely fresh ballad.
Overall Impression — 7
There are a lot of pluses in Test Your Reflex's debut CD, from the unique synth tracks to Levine's smooth vibrato. When the band isn't channeling The Cure, they sound like a mix of other fantastic Brit Pop/Rock bands -- oh, and the guys aren't British. It's just a very polished pop style that will appeal to a lot of people who miss that wonderful '80s sound. If the band is wise, it will immediately push Black Hearts as a single. I can see that being an instant radio hit, and well-deservedly so. Hopefully Test Your Reflex can surpass just being a singles band, and at the same time, creating a distinct sound that leaves the band with a distinct identity of it's own.