The Berlin Project – The Transition Radio EP

The Berlin Project
The Transition Radio EP

Pennsylvania’s The Berlin Project were once a ska band (less than a year ago). And now they are emo? Q: What did the band have to be thinking to make this drastic stylistic change? A: One or more of the following: (1) The Berlin Project was personally not satisfied with where their music was headed; (2) they were following the current pop/punk trend; (3) they wanted to be the ever-evolving music chameleon that is David Bowie. Based on the results, the second explanation holds. The band must have finally realized that ska is dead by jumping on the pop/punk bandwagon.
There exists not even the slightest hints of ska on The Transition Radio EP. While the musicianship may be there, John Garrighan’s vocals are, I hate to say it, atrociously annoying and phony. If you find Blink 182’s vocals even the slightest bit unbearable, then you would most indubitably find the vocals here seizure-inducing without the added help of strobe lights. I cannot even describe the way in which the lead singer projects sound from his trachea, probably because I have never heard such a voice in my years of existence – if I heard my voice sounding like this on record, I would blush in shame. I swear to gawd, my throat started itching when those backing vocals “no I don’t know what to do” popped in during “Runaway.”
Had, say, moog player Aaron Mediate sung each lyric on this album, then I can imagine that I would enjoy the EP to a much greater degree. I do not even care if he cannot sing, because I would not even call the words that are verbalized on this EP singing. In fact, the moog playing is what saves this record from being entirely dispensable. The moog may not be as original as it was in the Gary Numan / Devo era. And, currently, The Rentals and The Anniversary pull off the Moog more effectively. But for some reason, the moog brings my shoddy ears waves of pleasure every time.
The Transition Radio EP starts off promisingly with the very beginning of “Crashing Down.” Moog combines with up-tempo guitars and bass. But then, a meteorite headed toward Earth comes crashing down, and, BAM, in chimes John Garrighan’s vocals. And the rest is history. If I am not mistaken, a different vocalist sings on the following song, “Someday Forever.” Let me tell you that his voice is a vast improvement over Garrighan’s. This new singer’s voice still is not unique, but at least it does not upset the Earth’s delicate auditory balance. Unfortunately, the backing vocals are hideous.
No song on the EP stands out as stronger than the other songs, really. I would favor “Runaway” as it has the most inventive moog playing of the five songs, if it was not for the worst backing vocals ever. Each one is relatively catchy. The lyrical content need not even be mentioned. You get the idea, “it’s just my own rules / and it’s just my own way / don’t judge me by the way I feel / thoughts are genuine / my life is real / I don’t know why I don’t make a big deal / sometimes I wish I could just run away.” We have heard this all before.
The EP contains an enhanced video for “Crashing Down” where the members of the band show no creativity whatsoever as they do little more than play their instruments on a white background. And I don’t know if they are making a joke of lip syncing by intentionally opening their mouths really wide like the Pixies did in “Here Comes Your Man” or are simply a little to into the video-making process. Okay, okay, okay. I understand that the lead singer looks like an uncanny cross betwixt Jason Biggs and Freddy Prinze, Jr. Really, I do. But that does not mean that the cameraman must make every effort to zoom in on his perfect complexion.
With a little vocal work and a little originality, the Berlin Project could be something more than a generic emo band. Because, really, the only thing wrong here is the lack of originality and the ear-grating vocals. As it stands, something has to be said about a band that played full-fledged ska/punk on their previous outing, Culture Clash.