The Payola Reserve | 200 Years (s/r)

cd_payola.jpgThe Payola Reserve has made The Delivery Man at a time when they could have made My Aim Is True.






I’m prone to question the motives of young guys in adult contemporary bands. How can a group of 20-somethings make music that seemingly appeals only to 40-somethings? Then again, how certain music attracts such a big, typically casual fanbase is confusing in general.

That’s why The Payola Reserve is so hard to pin down. The group has a solid, acoustic-driven folk rock sound. Their lyrics don’t go too deep or make any revelations, but there aren’t any bad metaphors or terrible clichés. The band plays well together and they clearly put a lot of thought into the songs. They’re not slacking in the recordings, either. In fact, it’s a little reminiscent of later Elvis Costello.

So, it’s not that the music is particularly bad, but it’s ahead of its time in the worst way. The Payola Reserve has made The Delivery Man at a time when they could have made My Aim Is True.

Stand out songs and obvious singles like "Jugband Joan" aren’t cutting edge, but would be refreshing to hear on top 40 radio, while the album cuts are quality enough to keep anyone who buys the record from being let down.

Maybe that’s what the band is going for. Maybe they don’t want to be groundbreaking, just enjoyable to everyone. But, this album could be their Trojan horse. Maybe they want to turn middle-aged rock fans onto something cooler and better than matchbox twenty. When the band breaks from traditional sounds and structures, they show a glimpse of what makes their hipster-darling contemporaries so popular with young folks. The band’s use of organs, reverb and percussion could hint at an attempt to bring a youthful panache to parents who want to seem "with it" to their kids. It’s doubtful that cool youngsters will love this album, but it’s even more unlikely that they’d hate it.

If 200 Years represents the Payola Reserve’s sound, that’s great. They probably won’t find any fans on campus, but this record will undoubtedly have office blocks and minivans rocking—provided they’re cool enough to go buy it. C+ | Gabe Bullard

RIYL: Recent Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, Counting Crows

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