Album Review: Girl on Fire - "Not Broken"

Seattle, Washington has the distinction of being the largest city in the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. as well as being the birthplace of Starbucks and Jimi Hendrix. It is considered the home of grunge music, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Kenny G and now Seattle brings us the band "Girl on Fire" and their debut album "Not Broken".

While listening to this album I was somewhat underwhelmed. The press release on this record calls it, "a guitar-driven thrill ride primed to take radio by storm and leave the world rocking in its wake". In full disclosure, I don't usually look for my metal to "take radio by storm" but, considering the state of radio these days, I'm sure this album will fit right in.

"The Takedown" is the first track and the single from the album. It has a sort of "Linkin Park" vibe to it and is definitely what I would call "radio friendly". But instead of "angry white boy" metal, I would call it "mildly annoyed suburban" rock. There are a lot of "verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus" songs on this album... but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

There are a couple of tracks that made me say, "Aha, here we go" at the start only to be let down by the end. One of them is "Automatic Hurt" which starts with a Southern Rock style riff but left me feeling a little disappointed by the end. "Break the Chains" is similar but I did get a kick out of the chorus and actually found myself singing along; "...break, break, break these fuckin' chains...".

The songs are melodic, well played and well produced. The vocals provided by singer Austin Held are well done and include some nice harmonies. "Girl on Fire's" two guitar players, Nick McMahon and Nicholas Wiggins, create a full sound and provide the album with some competent leads. Drummer Harry MacDonald and bassist Josh Mouser bring a solid rhythm to the tracks. These five guys do a fine job of playing together as a group and, together, they create a sound that is tight but, sadly, not unique.

Now, there are some bands who make "not unique" music well. They embrace the genre and proudly pay tribute to the bands who inspired them to make music in the first place. They take the elements they like the best, combine it into a cohesive sound and make it their own. Unfortunately, "Girl on Fire" to me sounds a lot like so many other bands out there and I'm afraid that their lack of a distinctive sound will bring them down the path of being "just another band".

Let's face it, most bands get their start as an attempt to get girls. I think Gene Simmons of "Kiss" said it best, "Anyone who tells you they got into rock n' roll for reasons other than girls, fame and money is full of shit". And, with that in mind, "Girl on Fire" may just work out. There is nothing wrong with "Not Broken", it's just not my particular brand of vodka. Theirs is a happy kind of metal/rock, created for mass consumption and not concerned with being the heaviest, the fastest, the most controversial, etc.. "Girl on Fire" plays their kind of music their way and, with time, might find a way to distinguish themselves from the rest of the noise. At the very least, I think some girls will dig it.

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