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Skyfactor | Signal Strength

album review by John Powell

Skyfactor | Signal Strength

Skyfactor’s back with a mature, tight rock album befitting fans of Counting Crows or even Tom Petty. The choruses come around often, the verses have common rhyme and sincere melodies. The foursome- brothers Jon and Cliff Rubin on guitar and bass respectively, Bob Ziegler on vocals, and Jason Taylor on drums, pack a punch, perpetuated mainly by Jon’s incessant acoustic guitar antics. Palm muted rhythms and slick changes spice these 11 songs up.

“Carry the Load” is a lively opener that sums up the band’s sound. “She’s been screaming/ but no one seems to hear it come through,” Bob sings over taught instrumental backing. “She’s got a ticket and she’s leaving tonight.”

What’s great about Skyfactor is that in an age of ever increasing synth polishing, they remain organic, very okay with their four-person set-up. “Wake Up” begins like Dispatch and rarely builds up beyond light back beat and sparse bass. The song is awesome: sweet, sincere, and honest. After the truly excellent guitar solo, Bob sings, “It’s been 10 years now/ We’ve had our ups and downs/ Now our son just runs around.” It’s one of the truest love songs out there.

Another great track is “Not Alone”, louder than much of the rest of the record, but still acoustic and tempered. Like it, “Comin’ For You” is catchy as hell, reminiscent of “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, but less creepy, though thematically similar. The guitar work is fun and the bass and drums frame it well.

There’s also a great cover of Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right”, which also helps sum up the band’s sound. This version doesn’t deviate much from the original, but that’s okay. It’s been years since we’ve heard it and it’s a great song.

Some of the weaker songs are “Superstar” and “Anything…”, falling into cliché balladry without doing much for the sub-genre, although Bob sings with as much conviction as is needed to give Skyfactor the benefit of the doubt.

What are the issues? The songs never push themselves. The rhymes are predictable and the themes not too original. However, this isn’t a problem for these kinds of songs, which are tight pop songs. It’s the fact that they sound so familiar that brings out the charm. Is there much growth from Daydreams? Yes. The band takes some happy little risks and there’s more crunch.

Overall, these guys make honest and heartfelt tunes. They’re best live, but for now, Signal Strength is pop savvy, studio-smart music. Skyfactor has its niche, and within that, it’s great. If you like this stuff, you’ll love Signal Strength.

Bottom line: An excellent follow up to Daydreams that kicks and sticks.


 

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