I admit to harboring high hopes for Your Majesty (Vagrant). The buzz around young Lawrence, Kansas quintet The Anniversary has been steadily growing since the release of its 2000 debut, Designing a Nervous Breakdown. And on a first listen to the new long-player, the brash, youthful exuberance of the opening number, "Sweet Marie," with its dry crack of snare drum and winning opening couplet set a hook in me. Unfortunately, the album delivered only diminishing returns from that point forward.
With beefy guitars, large beats and arrangements layered up with synths and sound effects, the band does its level best to leave its emo tag in the dust. Keyboardist Adrienne Verhoeven's earnest, airy vocals are a nice compliment to the more affected delivery of guitarists and songwriters Josh Berwanger and Justin Roelofs. But well-constructed harmonies and quirky arrangements can't take the place of genuine passion and emotional depth. And here's where The Anniversary really fail to deliver. Like a film that's all technique and no character development, Your Majesty is spinning its rear wheels with the front wheels chocked, full of half-hearted performances, secondhand sentiments, mediocre writing and little, if any real soul.
"Crooked Crown" wants to be perky and upbeat with its staggered beat and lines like "Shake your hips pretty darling/ Oh sugar c'mon!" But Roelofs' vocal delivery is so slack and the tempo is so plodding that the song winds up a royal drag. The alleged charms of "The Siren Sings" are easily resisted. And just when you think the stolen Neil Young riffs and a good solid chorus will leverage "Husan Husan" out of mediocrity, the band decides to stretch it (with a numbingly dull interlude) into a nearly seven-minute opus. The album closes with the trite, hippie sentiments of "Follow the Sun." Listen guys, if you're going to write a song comprised of just two lines, you should have those two lines say something a tad more profound than "And we all follow the sun/ Come everyone, follow the sun." Or at least do it in a way that doesn't sedate the listener into a coma.
Maybe The Anniversary will bowl over a few out there with their white bread, Midwest charisma and obvious chutzpah, but for those of us requiring something more for our music bucks, Your Majesty leaves us cold and hungry.