Already having had tunes featured on popular US TV shows ‘Gossip Girl’ and ‘One Tree Hill’, Stockholm based band The Windupdeads have already been given a fair amount of exposure in media terms. They’ve also been favourably compared to Radiohead and Muse, though listening to their second full-length ‘Army of Invisible Men’ (released on OK!Good Records), this comparison would appear to be lazy journalism forced by the unnecessary need to pigeonhole the band.
Granted, Richard Olsen may have an early Thom Yorke strain to his vocal style occasionally – and thankfully, he’s not possessed by the hideous untrained wailing practiced by Muse’s Matt Bellamy – but in honesty, that’s about as far as any comparisons go. The Windupdeads lack any of the experimentalism practiced by latter-day Radiohead too (and that’s potentially a good thing) and the bulk of their music settles for a fairly safe brand of rock/pop.
The Snow Patrol/Fray-esque ‘Used Cars’ shows The Windupdeads in a good light, working a memorable chorus around a breezy drum part with lots of understated cymbal work. The verses are tuneful in a radio friendly way, all building to a mid section which features some sharp guitar work which (under layers of studio trickery) never really breaks into a full solo. ’59:1’ begins with multi-tracked vocals and new wave keyboards, and in doing so, promises a great deal. Those vocals eventually make up the bulk of a decent chorus, but the verses themselves aren’t so strong. The drums do little more than mark time and Marcus Von Boisman’s guitars are limited to rhythm work, fleshed out with swirly keyboards (interesting that keyboards would have such presence when nobody is credited for them), over which Olsen delivers a lightweight vocal. It’s a track saved by its chorus; it’s a shame they couldn’t beef up the rest of the arrangement just a little.
Undoubtedly the album’s strongest track, ‘Quiet Down’ has a great intro with multi-tracked guitars and a moody verse with Jonas Westholm’s bass upfront. Olson’s vocals are stylised at first sounding like he’s singing down a telephone, but by the time his full voice is heard, it’s easy to hear where the knee-jerk Radiohead comparisons are coming from. Olsen channels his inner Thom Yorke for a ‘Bends’-era style vocal over a subtle waltz time signature. The Windupdeads certainly sound more assured here – and it’s a style which suits them very well. ‘Blood On Her Hands’ opens with a very mechanical feel which runs through the rest of the track, with Olsen’s heavily filtered vocals taking on a very staccato quality for the verses. Things pick up for the chorus, which utilises a fairly simple hook, but overall, the end result feels somewhat empty.
‘Don’t Let Go’ features another of the album’s best choruses. The musical simplicity – effectively a stomp – gives Westholm’s bass another moment in the spotlight and although the featured guitar solo isn’t brilliant, it’s nice to actually hear one, since most of The Windupdeads’ material doesn’t really offer much in the way of instrumental breaks. The mid-paced ‘Perfection’ makes great use of keyboards in lieu of affording a full string section, before falling away to allow Olsen’s vocal to take a dominant role. By the time the chorus rolls around, he’s augmented by soft backing vocals and chiming guitars all of which have a pleasant quality.
And that’s the word which best sums up The Windupdeads: they’re pleasant. There’s nothing objectionable in what they do, but despite any comparisons to Radiohead and Muse, there’s very little that’s edgy or alternative on show. ‘Army of Invisible Men’ is the work of solid musicians delivering material that sounds like it was made for American television dramas; a band making music for an audience looking for something that gives them more of a challenge than Keane…just.