October 12, 2009 - Fueled By Ramen
It’s hard to believe that nearly a decade ago, a guy from South Florida with tattoos and a pompadour haircut changed music with just an acoustic guitar. Sure, Chris Carrabba didn’t invent the tender singer-songwriter tag, but the birth of Dashboard Confessional did much more than leave hair everywhere and give hormonal teenagers make-out music. It spawned an emo revolution.
As Carrabba moved further away from his acoustic-based tunes and more into full-band, MTV-ready fare, his sonic shift gave rise to a new wave of one-man-band imitators including Secondhand Serenade and Never Shout Never, each set on funneling the success of Dashboard Confessional into their own musical triumphs. On the surface, A Rocket To The Moon leader Nick Santino fits the Dashboard archetype well: a young, heartthrob-worthy poster boy with flamboyant hair and heavily inked arms. And, like Carrabba, he can write a damn good love song.
On Your Side, A Rocket To The Moon’s debut full-length, finds Santino & Co. splitting time between life-of-the-party pop (“Mr. Right,” the Def Leppard-esque “Give A Damn”) and tender heart-on-sleeve balladry (“On A Lonely Night,” “Baby Blue Eyes”). Twangy guitars underlie the disc’s more upbeat moments, including “Annabelle” and “She’s Killing Me,” pushing the band into the same sonic territory as the Maine and Brighten, but Santino never delves into riff ripping and melody biting.
Lyrically, On Your Side’s themes of love and loss are nothing new, but songs like the upbeat, uber-catchy “Dakota,” with its groove-heavy chorus and “ba da da” gang vocals, and the white-boy funk of “Sometimes” more than make up for any lyrical shortcomings. Instead, Santino puts his own spin on the pop-rock genre and emerges with a hook-filled disc that’s as diverse as it is refreshing. On Your Side might not reinvent the singer-songwriter wheel, but it gives it good reason to keep on spinning.
GO DOWNLOAD: “Annabelle”