I almost feel tricked by L.A. trio Sad Robot. Towards the beginning of the television season, the band was featured during a commercial for Season 8 of Bones. The song they played was “Hold On,” a soft, almost acoustic ballad helping prep the emotional return to one of the main characters. The song in question makes the bands latest outing, 1.0, but sounds nothing like it does in the commercial. In fact, the song sets up for a rather loud and noisy bit of blues rock.
1.0 does lead with “Hold On,” a smooth rock song filled with synths and pulsating drums, sounding like something A Silent Film would throw onto one of their albums. Then the band does a complete 180, and starts playing some Black Keys/Alabama Shakes type of music. “Sing” has that lo-fi guitar straight off of Brothers, with one of the better vocal deliveries from vocalist Katherine Pawlak. “God Damn The Man” sounds like a throwback to Joan Jett, with some rebel fury and tight drum playing filling the exciting three minutes this lasts. “How Does It Feel” takes a softer, more seductive approach to their formula that focuses on Pawlak’s vocals and lyrics – which were pretty fantastic.
The biggest issue I have with 1.0 is it’s length. With only eight songs and one reprise, it feels like it just blew right past you. And back-to-back listenings of the album added a bit of tarnish on each of the songs, making me find more things I didn’t like the first time around. One of which is how out of place “Hold On” and “Automatic Reset” are. They both are pop-rock radio ready, but sticks out on an album that’s filled with mostly noise rock. Even worse, “Automatic Reset” has the best vocal performance Pawlak gave on the album. If she would’ve given that amount of emotion and range on the other tracks, then I’d be praising this album instead of nitpicking.
Last bit of nitpicking, the instrumentation could be better. I feel like I’ve heard all of these rifts and filters before, even in some of the songs on this outing. I don’t doubt there ability – “The Prostitute” really kicked my ass towards the end of the album. They have the technical ability; they just need to implement it more.
The album ends with “Hold On (Reprise)”, returning me back to what I thought they were going to sound like. To say I was pleasantly surprised about their sound is an understatement, as Sad Robot’s old school flavor was a refreshing kick to the face. 1.0 is a nice piece of work, but has some flaws that are holding this back from being something pretty special. I’d keep an eye out for this band in the future, as there is obviously some potential here to be outstanding.
Final Grade: B
Go Download: “God Damn The Man”