West – We Feel Better Now

West
We Feel Better Now

Big and bold, full of energy and vitality, West’s sophomore effort, We Feel Better Now, briefly soars to glorious heights, yet comes crashing down in the flames of its own inadequacy. This review is an effort to decode the mystery of an album that has all the ingredients needed for a great rock record but ends up being less than a sum of its parts.

West trades in big, crunchy, anthemic rock ‘n roll, dripping with the sweat of small, dimly-lit clubs and steaming with the fury of underground movements everywhere. The band demonstrates remarkable technical proficiency, nailing moods and tempos with ease and handling instruments with notable skill. Yet, aside from a few gems sparkling in the field, the band’s songs largely fall short of their potential.

“Bloodshed” kicks off with a big drum lick and screeching, melancholy guitar riff, announcing the mood of We Feel Better Now. “Get Off” is a rollicking, guitar-driven number led by the charismatic Claremont Taylor. Unfortunately, the album takes a nosedive after its two excellent opening tracks. “Ten Million People” features a fascinating breakdown with cascading toms and cymbals, but a clumsy vocal line bogs the verse down. “Skin” features a vocal interplay with a female singer that wanders for three minutes without finding any memorable hook. “Back to L.A.” tries for a sassy tone over buzzing guitars, but it ends up unremarkable. “Brothers Can’t Swim” finds West reaching its nadir, with a forced acoustic song that offers a ham-fisted vocal melody that, as bad as it is, somehow outshines the lackluster guitar strumming.

The second half of the album is spotted with a few good tracks, but for the most part, West seems unable to write a song that is either without promise or able to fulfill it. “Just a Girl” is propelled by a rolling drumbeat and offers Taylor an opportunity to let his vocals loose, yet it lacks the requisite flair to push it over the edge. “Bound” follows, a down-tempo, desert-like track gently pulled along by slide guitars drifting in the background like mirages in the distance. “El Dorado” capitalizes on the momentum established by “Just a Girl” and “Bound” with an energetic chorus that finds all three members of West pounding on all cylinders; the guitars surge, the drums quake, and Taylor’s voice reach heights as of yet unexplored. “Don’t Come Around Here No More” closes the album out with a massive, crunchy riff and distorted vocals.

It’s difficult to describe exactly why We Feel Better Now falls short of its obvious potential. Any given song is good enough taken on its own, but situated in a full-length album, the individual tracks trip over each others’ feet on their way to forming a slushy grey mixture that doesn’t quite add up. It’s important to note that this is only West’s second album, and, accordingly, the band is still exploring its songwriting talents. Given time and some hard work, the boys of West may easily be able to come together and create something that capitalizes on their individual abilities and transcends the limitations of their current material. In the meantime, We Feel Better Now is worth a shot for fans of the genre, but it’s unworthy of unbridled praise.