(Island/Def Jam Records, CD)
I want to hate this. But I can’t.
Though it runs contrary to my instincts, the plain and simple truth is that in the age of indier-than-thou hipsterism, the term “major label” carries with it a dubious stigma. And rightly so, given the general cookie-cutter crapitude of the fare issuing from the gilded studios of Los Angeles. Thus, it was with some trepidation that I approached the self-titled debut from recent Island/Def Jam Records signees The Urgency. Though such skepticism may be warranted — and is justified at certain points on the album — it would be unfair to dismiss Vermont’s other major-label band simply on the basis of who cuts their paychecks. Or that they’re getting paychecks.
Make no mistake, the disc bears an undeniable factory-fresh scent that can only come from, well, a factory. Still, The Urgency are hardly airbrushed automatons.
The album begins with the band’s first single, “Fingertips,” which has gotten a healthy amount of airplay on MTV. The radio-ready tune is catchy as hell, as you would expect. It’s the sort of hormone-driven romp that could easily find its way onto the soundtrack of the next American Pie flick, or whatever teen sex comedy franchise the kids are watching these days. But it is also — brace yourselves — really good.
Vocalist Tyler Gurwicz has chops on top of chops. The onetime musical-theater major has remarkable range. And even at his most histrionic, he is always in control, delivering soaring lines with seeming ease. He is also one cheekily subversive lyricist, which is likely the reason the disc comes stamped with a charming little “Parental Advisory” sticker. Remember those?
Gurwicz’s backing band is predictably tight — whatever else one might think of major labels, they rarely allow sloppy acts to hit the airwaves. The Urgency trade primarily in a kind of melodic post-hardcore, which requires turn-on-a-dime precision to perform well. And in moments — the fist-pumping anthem “Crimes,” the Latin-tinged “Move You” or my favorite cut, “Revolution” — they display an artistic aptitude well beyond that of many heavy-rotation bands on The Buzz.
Catch The Urgency at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge this Friday, June 12, with Boston’s Build a Machine and Burlington indie-pop darlings In Memory of Pluto.