El Toro – May and Marielle

El Toro
May and Marielle

Avoiding the unoriginal masses of emotional rock comes El Toro with its latest full-length, May and Marielle. These guys certainly dodge the confines of mainstream emo, at least musically. Still, this is largely a hit and miss affair, with overwhelming emphasis on the miss part.

Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief begins with a guitar being plugged in, and El Toro adopts that same idea. Sadly, that’s all the songs have in common, as “Paperdolls” evolved into a sappy acoustic lullaby that’s easily skipped. “Georgia Peach” continues this mixed bag with a drum loop, echoing guitars, and feminine singing. It’s a perfect example of a late bloomer and does show some redemption from the start; the guitars lose their inhibitions, the loops become history, and the vocals are expressive and loud. The layered instrumentation of “Bouncing Ball” displays how successful the band can be at rocking out, but then all of a sudden it’s completely wasted when the band reverts to minimalism.

I say this album is hit and miss because of how inconsistent songs like this are. The latter section of “Bouncing Ball” is a return to form as the distortion pedal sends boredom packing. Matt Ludwikowski’s voice simply can’t do much for the songs when a drab, spaced-out band mopes behind him, and there really are too many instances of that. Even the album’s single proves to be lackluster. “Far Away” sounds too sleepy, with music comparable to chill hip-hop band Gym Class Heroes. Some unexplainable radio knob-turning clip is inserted at the end, which definitely feels uneeded.

There’s no doubt that El Toro has decent songs, but few bands trigger yawning this easily. The downfall of May and Marielle might just be the way it floats by nonchalantly, lacking both hooks and replay value. To their credit, these guys have a unique style going for them, so you may want to give them a chance regardless.