Review by Jack Foley
SOME of the leading names in the American music industry - including Limp
Bizkit's Fred Durst, Stone Temple Pilots' Scott Welland and Sugar Ray's Mark
McGrath - are raving about them, yet Paloalto have, so far, yet to make much
of an impression on UK shores, despite recently touring with former Stone
Roses guitarist, John Squire, and producing one of the best rock albums I've
heard for a long time.
Comprised of James Grundler (vocals, guitar), Andy Blunda (guitar, keyboards), Florian Reinert (drums), and Tommy Black (bass), this excellent LA four-piece have produced an album of genuine quality, which expertly blends many of their musical influences with a style all of their own - marking them out as a band to watch.
Think Radiohead or Muse (and occasionally Travis and Turin Brakes), spliced with the mellower sound of, say, Puddle of Mudd, and you might get an idea of what to expect. Heroes and Villains is that rare commodity - an American album that manages to sound slightly different with each record, without ever resorting to the thrashy histrionics of your average US fare.
These are 12 carefully composed records, which are as musically tight as they are vocally strong; tracks which could well feature strongly in any rock fan's end-of-year favourites. It is little wonder that Scott Welland described them as 'a beautiful, lush, adventurous pop hybrid with something much needed in music today... passion'.
Produced by rock legend, Rick Rubin (who has worked with the likes of the Chili Peppers, Limp Bizkit and Audioslave), this is an unexpected joy from start to finish. Kicking off with the fantastically rich, The World Outside, which blends some entrancing guitar rifts with an instantly catchy drum beat, the album then moves on to the debut single, Fade Out/In, a suitably upbeat number that combines the much-talked about Muse lyrical sound with a guitar solo reminiscent of the Smashing Pumpkins (or, latterly, Zwan) in their heyday.
Yet there is clearly more to Paloalto than the ability to rock, as the more mellow tracks Last Way Out of Here and Throwing Stones suggest. Both rate among the stronger tracks on the album and are personal favourites, displaying a maturity and assuredness not usually associated with American bands of late (most seem content to copy the tried and tested Sum 41/Blink 182 formula for throaway excess).
Throwing Stones, especially, is a beautifully-constructed track, a heartfelt lament driven by some soothing acoustic guitars, the occasional strings sample, and a genuinely moving chorus that brings out the best in Grundler's distinctive vocal style.
The aforementioned Travis comparisons are particularly apparent during tracks four, Breathe In, and 12, Seed, especially when the banjo is employed in the latter track; while the sun-drenched coastal sound recently captured by Turin Brakes for Painkiller is also evident throughout. You can virtually imagine the album accompanying you on a laidback drive around the Californian coastal highway.
And while the occasional track may sound a little basic, when compared to the more sweeping numbers, it is a small price to pay; for this is a long-player which works really well as a whole. It is one of the year's early highlights, just waiting to be discovered. Make sure that you do.
1. The World Outside
2. Fade Out/In
3. Last Way Out Of Here
4. Breathe In
5. Going Going Gone
6. Throwing Stones
7. What You Are
9. Sleeping Citizens
11. Always Running Home