Salem – Love it or Leave Me EP

Love it or Leave Me EP

It seems pretty obvious that when a band thanks Dashboard Confessional, the Used, Brand New, and the Movielife in its liner notes, it’s just dying to be pigeonholed. Salem – you’re in luck! By the powers vested in me by the Delusions of Adequacy and a higher grace, I hereby dub thee… “Pop rock!!” Be fruitful and multiple. Oh wait, shit, you already have. Just watch MTV.
Salem hails from that bastion of hardcore and voter fraud: Florida – ripe with homogenized roadside attractions, a geriatric populace, and enough humidity to stew your frontal lobe like a pot of mushrooms. Looking just at the cover of the band’s debut EP, Love it or Leave Me, you’d think you were in for some Misfits-style anal reaming, or at least some Dead Kennedys-style rib-tickling. Instead, you’re served up a five-course meal of melodic, post-hardcore/pop-rock that, while not as gratingly whiny as Thursday or as heart-on-sleeve moan-filled as Dashboard, still manages to irk you with its derivative delivery. Thankfully, vocalist Adam D’Zurilla seems up to the task, as does his slightly raspy, slightly Morissey-sounding voice. More soulful than bitchy, D’Zurilla is exactly what this tired and over-(air)played genre needs. But can his unit manage to break out of genre constrictions and just flat out rock?
Sadly, no. “Smoke and Mirrors” and “Cancel the Sun” are pretty standard alternative-rock faire, with only D’Zurilla’s plaintive and emotive yowl making lyrics like “Walls are caving in / To crush the state I’m in” barely digestible. The latter has some nice bass turns from Thomas Rankine; however, the guitars (Joseph Simmons and Jeremy Robertson) don’t really live up to the challenge, as they drift through some fairly predictable screeching and soft/loud transitions. “Aphrodite’s Tears” allow those ax-wielding fellas to redeem themselves with some pretty awesome noodling and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez-style riffing (though ultimately lacking the Mars Volta frontman’s gift of artistry and experimentation). With “Confession,” you can almost picture a gathering of tailored record company suits checking off the box next to “ballad” on the list of radio-friendly requirements.
Love it or Leave Me isn’t bad – I need to make that abundantly clear right now. Salem has a handle on songwriting, instrumentation, and power chords that could send you clear across the room if made loud enough. It’s just tired, man. Whew. I’m telling ya, these bands…no respect. Christ, I can barely finish this review it’s so tired. I said all the good stuff, didn’t I? Good vocals, solid production, ambition…but when the album art honestly is the best thing you’ve got going, it’s going to be a long hard road to relevance, my friend. Just look at me – 24 years old and still as irrelevant as I was when I was 18. But never mind that. Already with a Warped tour and some lucrative opening slots for New Found Glory under its belt, this particular review will end up being as irrelevant to Salem as Salem is to me.