This self-titled disc may be the first release from Empire Of One, but their frontman Wil Seabrook has been around for a while. He has released a few solo albums and an early single achieved the “Record of the Week” accolade on BBC Radio 2. Rather more regrettably, some of you may remember him from “Rock Star: INXS” [the talent show where the Aussie rockers refused to let their musical legacy die with Michael Hutchence, and instead chose to whore themselves on TV]. Wil performed a couple of songs before being voted out at an early stage.
It turns out that not getting the INXS job was a blessing, since he’s a clearly talented vocalist and this debut EP from Empire Of One features some great material. It’s a good example of radio friendly pop-rock played at a superbly professional level, with just enough grit to stop things ever becoming too sweet. Empire Of One’s sound may not be immediately striking but this EP only requires a couple of plays before the musicianship and songs begin to shine.
‘If I Let Myself Dream’ comes straight out of the stalls with no intro, with Seabrook’s vocals arriving alongside a rumble of drums. This lends an edge, which, at first, seems like it ought to fade in order to let the song’s less crashy elements shine through. In a surprising move, the drums remain insistent throughout, giving this opening track a tough edge. All the while, Seabrook’s crying voice ensures the track has a strong sense of melody, with the repeated line “always, always I’m with you now” providing the main hook. ‘Roam’ is a touch more accessible. Ringing guitars and more emotive vocals recall the likes of Train (in a less drippy mood) and while the music may not be edgy, the rhythms which dominate the piece give everything a slightly angular approach. While this is already enjoyable, the song’s best elements come from the superbly played bass, which dances in the background throughout, while doing a sterling job of holding everything together.
While not stretching Empire Of One’s musical range particularly, ‘I Wouldn’t Wait’ and ‘Better Than’ bring two more slices of impeccably played radio rock. ‘I’m Still Here’ finishes the EP on a real high, however, really showcasing the band’s talent, as another top chorus is rounded out by jangly guitars and solid work from the rhythm department. The guitars recall mid-period U2, which combined with a slightly breathy vocal line gives this number a cinematic feel. If you were to pick just one number as a taster for the EP, you would not go far wrong here.
Based on this short release, Pasadena’s Empire Of One are a talented bunch. Harder than Coldplay, happier than Doves and infinitely more interesting than The Killers, this short collection of songs is just about ten thousand times better than most of the limp and somewhat sorry collection of tunes presented on Train’s 2012 effort in the name of radio friendliness. While the US isn’t short on bands which fill this musical niche, there’s always room for more…especially when they’re this enjoyable.