In this day of downloads, you’ve gotta hand it to a band that puts some effort into their CD cover art – even more so if that CD is actually worth owning.
Attics To Eden, the sophomore effort from Chicago-based Madina Lake, is covered in surreal eye candy that crosses Pink Floydish album art with ’60s sci-fi pulp. The female pilot looking at the birdcage robot is a cool image, but unfortunately, the sound isn’t nearly as adventurous as the look. Beneath the stylistic exterior, you’ll find a slick, radio friendly collection of fist pumping rockers and power ballads which is neither great nor truly bad.
The band, led by twins Nathan and Mathew Leone (vocalist and bassist, respectively); as well as guitarist Mateo Camargo and drummer Dan Torelli were first thrust into public view on a special “twins” episode of Fear Factor. The Leones won the competition and used the $50,000 prize money to make their debut EP, The Disappearance of Adalia. The EP introduced listeners to the fictional town of Madina Lake and its most famous socialite, Adalia. Soon after, the band was signed to Roadrunner Records and released their debut album, From Them, Through Us, To You –- a promising release that began what is intended to be a three album storyline on the disappearance of Adalia and the mysteries of the fictional town.
Although it’s the middle of the intended trilogy, Attics to Eden doesn’t tell a story in the way of true concept albums such as Pink Floyd’s The Wall or The Who’s Tommy, but is, instead, a collection of feelings of paranoia and the need to escape.
The band’s musicianship has grown since their debut and Camargo’s guitar is particularly strong on the album’s lead off track and first single, “Never Take Us Alive”, a fist pounding anthem meant to be played at high volume. The musicianship is solid, but it’s Nathan Leone’s voice that is the group’s greatest strength. At times, the lyrics are uninspired and not overly powerful or descriptive (I’m ready to go/where the palm trees blow/I wanna go where there’s no one we know, from “Let’s Get out of Here”), but when the words falter, Leone’s emotional vocals are a saving grace and manage to lift the songs above the mediocre lyrics, almost pulling the listener into the protagonist’s mind.
One of the biggest changes from the band’s debut is the use of various electronic equipment, which adds a touch of eighties new wave to their pop/punk sound. In fact, at one point in “Never Take Us Alive”, Leone veers eerily close to an old Platinum Blonde song, “Dancing in the Dark”. The new wave feel is a nice touch and is particularly effective on the album’s strongest track, “Welcome to Oblivion” – a swirling ode to paranoia that really finds a place in your head.
For the most part, songs such as “Legends” and “Friends and Lovers” are undeniably catchy, but the overall tone of the album suffers from David Bendeth’s much too slick production. Picking up David Lynch and taking a drive to a town like Madina Lake shouldn’t sound this polished. The album would have been far more intense with a rawer, edgier sound that would have better captured the surreal storyline the band envisions. Besides “Welcome to Oblivion” and “Never Take Us Alive”, the album’s strongest tracks are “Criminals” and, “Lila, the Divine Game”, a haunting piano-driven instrumental that actually manages to capture much of the adventurous spirit that’s missing from several of the album’s other tracks.
Attics to Eden is a solid, but unspectacular, album that teases with glimpses of much greater potential. It’s kind of like any number of failed summer romances. It has a pretty face and it’s fun for awhile, bit it’s not quite sexy enough to keep you interested in the long run.
Attics to Eden