Blueprints For The Black Market
Seattle's Tooth & Nail has developed a reputation as the home for positive-thinking, hookalicious pop-punk and alternative combos, many sporting fancy haircuts and a Christian-influenced worldview. Anberlin fits this mold. Led by the soaring, slightly froggy-voiced vocals of Stephen Christian, the band also includes Joseph Milligan (guitar), Nathan Young (drums), Joey Bruce (guitar), and Deon Rexroat (bass). Blueprints for the Black Market features 11 songs buffed to a gleaming finish by producer Aaron Sprinkle, ex of Christian punkers Poor Old Lu. While it accesses the earnestness of emo through a side door, Blueprints removes punk and hardcore from the equation entirely. Some songs feature dynamics evocative of these genres ("Naïve Orleans," the post-hardcore stylings of "Glass to the Arson"), but those same tracks are cleaned up with electronic programming or lush chorus vocals that are much closer to bland alternative pop/rock. The bopping "Foreign Language" marries the yearning of Cutting Crew to a post-new wave beat, but a song later Anberlin is channeling the grandiose proto-metal of Tool, albeit without that group's slithering underbelly. This obviousness doesn't do Blueprints for the Black Market any favors. It's such a glimmering recording, and the songs are so minutely arranged to represent a particular sound, that the album ends up becoming an utterly pleasant bore. Christian and his cohorts turn in some determined performances, but they lack any definition. A preening cover of the Cure's "Love Song" doesn't help matters.