Driver of the Year – Statik

As frustrating listens go, you can’t do much better (or worse) than these guys. Driver of the Year stakes out an intriguing territory in the indie-rock landscape, somewhere between new-wave revival, white-boy funksterism, classic-rock hyperbole, and indie-guitar trickery. Yet the band still manages to be both underwhelming and overbearing, aiming wide of the mark on almost every side.

The band takes in an admirable variety of influences and seems especially hopped up on a Roxy Music mixture of seductive keyboards and stealthy guitar, but the musicians wring very few exceptional moments out of them. An inability to conjure a compelling hook along with Jason Parris’ hammy vocals leaves Driver of the Year struggling to maintain your attention even when the music works.

Songs like “Even the Devil Has Friends” and “Confession” do have intriguing combinations of clever riffs and dreamy synths, but they fail to cohere into a full song, derailed as they are by the unnecessarily affected vocals and disinterested playing. There’s a dry, unfinished sound to the whole record that nags, too, as well as some questionable drum and keyboard performances (“Most Crimes”) that hint that maybe the studio funds ran out before the vision did.

But it’s not all bad; “Black as Soul” has an irritating chorus that ends up being one of the catchiest things on the disc, in spite of itself. “Volume Switch” is pleasantly reminiscent of the Sea and Cake, although it may also remind you how much better TS&C appropriated the same influences And that’s the largest nail in Statik’s coffin: nice idea, been done better. After that, what’s left to do except go home?

There are only bits and pieces to recommend here, but Driver of the Year should build upon them. The band’s willingness to name check people like Brian Eno, Steely Dan, and Elton John is laudable, but I don’t think those folks are being mined for all the good they have to offer, certainly not on the basis of Statik. Try harder, guys!