I Hate Kate - Embrace the Curse
Record Label: Glass Note / Photo Finish Records
Release Date: April 4, 2007; June 24, 2008 (reissue)
I Hate Kate's debut album is unlike other artists' in that it already knows what it is and where it wants to go; it is like others in that it showcases a handful of good songs but a necessity to improve before demanding worldwide acclaim. "Emo," if that far-reaching word with so many connotations in the present day can even describe a genre, is definitely in the mixture here. Pop-punk is a strong flavor, and the funky drumbeats paired with short electric-guitar hooks are quite familiar, but there is something amiss... Embrace The Curse is not simply another record by Simple Plan.
The truth is, the difference is a small but appealing one. Vocalist Justin Mauriello sings with a marked British accent despite being from California, and the music complements him perfectly. Some songs sound not unlike Blur, and others have traces of the Arctic Monkeys. The lead single, "It's Always Better (When I'm With You)" is a amazingly memorable, with a guitar riff to rival any other - don't be surprised to hear it on an alt-rock station near you very soon. The lyrics are simplistic ("Tonight, I just don't wanna say goodbye to you / I just don't wanna say it's over too") but effective nonetheless.
"Then You Kiss," another potential single with with a bass-and-drum verse, tasty chorus, and unmistakable Franz Ferdinand influence, is a song about a man being afraid his girlfriend is cheating on him. The 2008 re-release of Embrace the Curse also adds the current single "I'm in Love with a Sociopath," a wacky power-pop presentation with an edge.
Intelligently combining David Bowie with pop-punk, "Major Tom" steals a favorite character of the British superstar's (featured on his classic tune, "Space Oddity") and throws him amongst Mauriello's emotive vocals and a few select power chords. On the other side of the coin, "A Story I Can't Write" is attractive upon first listen, but is so middle-of-the-road that it is easily forgettable, and "It's You" attempts a power ballad and collapses in on itself like a volcano in an anthill. The final two tracks on the record, "Love Association" and "Outta My Head," display the same bass-and-drum verses with explosive choruses, but sound more like Bon Jovi after sucking helium than The Killers.
Overall, despite the occasional remarkable moment, I Hate Kate's debut album is relatively lackluster. My ratings for this album are admittedly higher than an average of every song; I made the conscious decision to focus on the best third of the album, because that is what can make I Hate Kate a long-lasting band. And, as befitting an ADD music connoisseur like myself, I will end with a note about the first track: "Bed of Black Roses" is almost as "emo" as the title indicates, with its keyboard-and-whine intro and its "your face seems to disappear; you can't understand my sane nightmare." I guess the most unappealing tracks somehow beat you into submission: that song is currently my favorite on the album.
My hypothesis? The British, even the faux ones, do "emo" better than us Americans.