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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