When looking at the CD cover art the first thing that immediately hits the front of my mind is Aqualung. With its serene outline of a man and the washed-out colours of green and grey this record could easily be as tranquil and relaxing as the former musician's calm observations.
The music is actually tranquil in places, tinged every now and then with a mild level of distortion, but it unfortunately doesn't lift the record from a rather uninspiring pool of blandness.
There are some moments that shine, but only very briefly, and once they show themselves they quickly retract into the safety of shadows. Bleeding Centre Stage demonstrates this, with it's well-placed anticlimax and steady flow, but the song then begins to fall with its repetitively weak lyrics and over-the-top sentimentality. This dramatic sentimentality is at its most potent on the hidden track at the end, where singer Ven actually begins crying.
Back To One pulls things back on track, hinting ever so mildly at an appreciation of Taking Back Sunday, making it the pick of the bunch. Still though, the lyrics are full of self-pity and obstacle-course dilemmas that neither make you think about them, nor appreciate the context in which they are placed in. This remains the crack in All One Surface's window, and while it is only a small crack, it is one that weakens Such Is The Way To The Stars so dramatically that it's more than capable of causing it to shatter.
While it is a record of mostly subtlety and tenderness, the guitar would benefit a lot from being beefed up for the heavier moments that seem devoid of any rock presence. The structures of the songs are actually quite good, but the sounds strive to be more potent, and with some changes in levels these parts could really deliver something valuable that relates to the lyrics.
Another thing that sadly brings All One Surface down more than a few pegs are the weighty comparisons the band are touting, such as the Foo Fighters and Jimmy Eat World. For a band that are just beginning to make records it isn't healthy to carry round some huge rock 'n' roll names on your back, and when the record is heard and it doesn't sound at all like the aforementioned, the guys have only themselves to fall back on.
While Such Is The Way To The Stars is a disappointment, the band shouldn't be worried; there are some semi-decent elements here that will blossom in time. Unfortunately though, this crop has been harvested far too early.
:: Graham Drummond