Label: Hopeless Records
Released: March 10, 2009
Label: Doghouse Records
Released: April 7, 2009
Thirty years ago, a subgenre of rock that had been building for a few years was just about ready to explode. AOR took the best elements of 70s rock, dummied it down, made it safe and sold millions of records whose broad appeal was based on the least common denominator. While what they did was generally meaningless, a few bands did it well, but for every Journey or Foreigner, there were a slew of Loverboys and Survivors (and don’t even make me count the Honeymoon Suites). Just about every subsequent generation has turned its primal voice into a slicked up, safe facsimile of itself that embodies the spirit, if not the sound, of AOR.
Both Anarbor and The Bigger Lights embody that spirit, but the results aren’t quite the same. On their Free Your Mind EP, Anarbor take a step forward in songwriting. While they still won’t be remembered years from now, their songs are catchy and draw from influences that expand their basic power pop sound. Each song is catchy enough to be memorable and “The Brightest Green” and “Halfway Sober” both have clear single potential, with the latter tapping into power ballad territory worthy of Aerosmith. All in all, not bad for today’s version of AOR. It may not have staying power, but it’s a good listen in the moment.
The Bigger Lights have bigger problems. While Anarbor have trouble creating a consistent, distinctive sound, their songs do manage to maintain some personality in their own right, but The Bigger Lights can’t even establish that on a song by song basis. Not only could their Fiction Fever EP be played by any number of bands, but the songs themselves could be interchanged with literally thousands of others glutting the current rock market. Where Anarbor struggles to find a voice of their own, The Bigger Lights struggle to find something worth saying.
Anarbor – Free Your Mind
The Bigger Lights – Fiction Fever
If you’re curious about my rating categories, read the description.