by Sam Jenkins
Astoria by Marianas Trench is a disgusting failure of an album! It’s the musical equivalent of a research paper written completely out of copy and paste. A matter of fact, I guarantee that if you listen to the first track and are in any way well-versed in music in general, specifically ‘70s and ‘80s music, you will be able to sing along with every song that they’re ripping off. Even the majority of the lyrics sound like YA book titles, and aesthetic poetry edits made on tumblr. Yes, I understand it was written in a time of “Deep Emotional Pain™”, but that doesn’t give it any excuse for sucking terribly.
Anyway, let’s talk about that first song a little bit. ‘Astoria,’ which is around 6 minutes long, has the most confused tone I’ve ever heard, and doesn’t really know what it wants to be… perfect start to the record! While I can’t say that Marianas Trench wasn’t original in their foundation as being Canadian emos, they have quickly lost my respect to this mess mostly because emo has been tired for a while and the only way that they could make it more so is exactly what they did, by adding the ‘80s. It is never good when I hear a track and imagine how much better my life would be if I was just listening to the record that’s being ripped off. But enough about that let’s get into specifics!
The “album,” after the previously mentioned ‘Astoria,’ leads straight into ‘Burning Up’; a song which I can only describe as “Kidz Bop is allowed to curse now?” That being said, the track does have an incredibly catchy beat and I find myself occasionally dancing along with it. But, for that matter, I can get the exact same wonderful feeling from listening to better music, such as Carly Rae Jepsen’s new record, Emotion (check it out). ‘Burning Up’ is also way too long. If there’s one thing I can say about Marianas Trench, they did not copy the shortness of a lot of the songs from the time period they’re unintentionally mocking.
Next is ‘Take On Me’ by Aha!; I mean by WHAM!; Oh my mistake, it’s that Geronimo song. Wait, no it’s called ‘Yesterday.’ The guitar riff sounds like a track from one of my broken dollar store cassettes, too. Then It leads into ‘One Love,’ which has an emotional string section. Also, am I allowed to say the song sounds a little like Bob Marley’s ‘One Love,’ if nothing else than for chord structure…
And now I have to give the album some (gasp!) credit. There are a few very nice short (and lyricless*) classical compilations that sound like they were written in more than an afternoon, and are actually quite lovely.They really deliver depth. Sadly, they last about 30 seconds to a minute each.
And then we go into more vomit-inducing ‘80s synth. This one is the one I like to call the ‘Life is a Highway’ song. It’s called ‘This Means War,’ and admittedly has some decent lyrics, but Josh Ramsay’s falsetto makes my brain hurt, Not to mention a part that made me actually laughed out loud while I was listening to it: the backup vocals singing “fire in the hole” in a very serious tone over and over. (It starts at 2:15 if any of you are interested in hearing it.) Oh! And it has the xylophone noise from ‘Ain’t it Fun’ by Paramore! Nice “homage,” boys.
Then there’s this track called ‘Dearly Departed’ which I would consider original if it weren’t for the fact that I know who Twenty One Pilots are. Then we have a Jackson 5 ABC ripoff.
Next there’s a song called ‘Who Do You Love’ which I have to call original because I can’t figure out who exactly they’re ripping off here. (I will figure it out, Marianas Trench, I’m onto you.) Unfortunately, the song is not particularly noteworthy. What a pity, some actual trace of originality would have been welcome. The same goes for ‘Wildfire,’ the follow-up, which is also unoriginal, but again, I can’t figure out exactly who they’re copying.
Then comes in an epic actual song entitled ‘While We’re Young,’ which is, for all intents and purposes, what I was looking for when I said original. Now, it definitely has its problems, but I teared up with joy at the thought of having to listen to something that was seemingly real. The feeling didn’t last long though, as it’s a generic kind of real that makes you forget it after thinking it was the best part of a January-release romantic drama. Makes sense because it’s just a rehash of the band’s collective works.
Then there’s a piano ballad, making me almost wish that there was another painful homage collage so at least I would have something to insult, instead of groan at. But instead, the last track, Astoria part 2, happens. It’s actual name is ‘End Of An Era.’ And you know what they say and ending with a bang? Well, this is a slow burn. 7 minutes long and slightly painful, it is the perfect end to a way too long and very painful record. The best part of this track, however, is how it manages to both rip off the first track of the album as well as the Lord of the Rings trilogy by having several wrap-up points but amazingly not actually ending ever.
Astoria is awful on many levels, most notably on a musical one. It’s a great example of what happens when musicians are surrounded by yes men who green light every idea without actually checking where it comes from. The pop-rock-alternative-scene-punk genre is dying. It needs new artists with interesting new ideas. Adding something has been dead for years is the last way to revive it. Not to say that 80s throwback can’t work, because it can, but the trick is originality. I feel most can agree that is something which Marianas Trench lacks in waves. listening back on their discography I can confidently say that they didn’t have much originality to begin with, but it was excused because they were in a genre made up almost entirely of non authenticity. Plus, they’re Canadian, so every trend comes 10 years late.
Overall, I rate the album a 2/7, if nothing else for the beautiful pieces that Josh Ramsay composed that are sort of thrown in there haphazardly. The record is a confused mess that doesn’t know exactly what it wants to be. It’s polished as crap to the point it’s distracting. Made of tracks that are collages of the 70’s and 80’s to the point where it’s borderline plagiarism. If you’re into that listen to WHAM!, The Who, Queen, any number of classics. If you really want to listen to Marianas Trench for some ungodly reason, listen to Fix Me. It’s just as confused and emo, but at least there’s “Shake Tramp”.
*thank the gods above!