Plumbiferous Media

Memento – Buffalo 77

Apr 2nd 2009
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Memento - Buffalo 77Buffalo 77
Score: 53

Buffalo 77 has spent the last few years playing small venues and working up to their current status. Now signed to Autonomy (a rather new UK rock label), they’ve just put out their debut album, Memento. Displaying definite influence from rockers such as Coldplay and The Smashing Pumpkins, Memento is certainly an interesting debut. But while it should certainly help Buffalo 77 earn a place at the entrance of the rock market, they’ve got a ways to go to match their idols.

Jay Leighton’s vocals on Memento are generally strong, though it isn’t an especially unique sort of strength – he sounds exactly like a whole lot of other rock musicians. Accordingly, his voice isn’t amazing, but it’s certainly solid, and he uses it to a very effective degree. Within the constraints of decency, Leighton’s voice is rather melodic, and he uses the delicate nuances he’s obviously capable of well, keeping Memento interesting far after a more generic album would have become worthless. And he should certainly be commended for his attempts at varying his vocals to keep the album interesting – though the transitions are occasionally jarring.

Leighton’s vocals definitely fare better unmodified. On a few occasions, most notably on the opening track, “Won’t Forget,” Buffalo 77 indulges themselves in some unnecessary voice distortion which frankly weakens his vocals. Happily, this unfortunate effect is only present for a short time, and is rarely seen past that track. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to then avoid thinking that Buffalo 77 should have perhaps used some form of vocal editing on slower tracks (“With Vigour”), where Leighton fails to keep his voice from droning slightly.

Though the lyrics of Memento are typically repetitive and seem to lack especially deep meaning, they’re solid taken all together – much like the vocals on the album. Memento relies greatly on hooks and oft-repeated choruses, and while this can certainly work, Buffalo 77 would be better off stopping after, say, the 5th repetition of any given phrase. It’s difficult to define a constant level of quality of writing for Memento – when Buffalo 77 isn’t repeating themselves, they either hit or miss with their lyrics. “Happiness & Good Intentions” is the latter, with the unimaginative “City sleeps / Night time creeps / But I can see the colors / Falling at your feet.” However, Buffalo 77 does manage some intriguing lines, such as “Take another box alone with all your thoughts / That you don’t want to keep / They’ve kept you” on “No Comfort.” There are certainly some good lyrics on Memento, but they’re hard to find among the huge amount of repetition.

By and large, the rest of the album shares the same problems as the vocals; it just doesn’t carry the same quality that somewhat makes up for the vocal problems. In general, the instrumentals are very dense, incredibly repetitive, and use clearly unnecessary odd effects (such as the odd rumbling in “Won’t Forget,” and the miserable abuse of stereo in “Happiness & Good Intentions”). The instrumentals are not awful, as the melodic and harmonic segments stick pretty closely to what other bands have done to some success, but they are clearly not good.

Overall, the album nearly falls apart. It is clearly a vocal-centered album, but the vocals and lyrics are not nearly compelling enough to be the only focus of even one track, let alone the rest of the album. The album also can by no means function as a more mixed, or instrumental-weighted album, simply because the instrumentals are quite miserable in general, carry far less bass than would have been necessary to provide a proper, significant backbone for Leighton, and have drum lines that are not explicitly bad, but never quite mesh with the rest of the music. Some tracks like “Happiness & Good Intentions” (though it has other problems) and “No Comfort” do come together better than others, but tracks never quite cohere, and as a result, the album as a whole is clearly uncohesive.

To some extent, Memento is really a study of light rock clichés. Not only can a repetitive series of such hooks and indecisive or undirected phrases not work as an album in any circumstance, but Buffalo 77 takes “study of light rock clichés” and chooses to put particular emphasis on the “study.” In other words, while Memento might be riddled with technical problems, its largest problem is most likely the severely noticeable absence of any great amount of emotion that is necessary for nearly all music to function properly. Still, while it is easy to belittle the album, Memento is not a bad album; really, it is quite mediocre in nearly every sense of the word.

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