Until June – S/T

It’s not unusual in any profession to take a successful formula, change it a little, present it to the general public as an improvement and hope it is at least as successful as the original, if not more. In fact it’s probably more prevalent in the rock world than anywhere else. And it’s exactly what’s going on with Until June’s self-titled debut album.

The original formula being toyed with here is that of Coldplay’s cascading guitars and flourishing keyboard melodies. The change is blending this influence with the pop smarts and vocalizations of Phil Collins and adding a dash of romantic Brit-pop reminiscent of Keane. The problem is the result is not an improvement on any, but rather a watered down version of all three.

Not that Until June are particularly bad, I mean we’re talking Coldplay, Keane and Phil Collins here. It’s just that it’s a diluted form of what we’ve heard before and with little variation between tracks and puerile lyrics regarding affairs of the heart, there’s nothing engaging enough to make repeated plays worthwhile. Although there are a few slower, pop ballads scattered between the more nimble guitar-based tunes, there are no exciting poly-rhythmic counter rhythms or layered orchestrations. No gritty indie-rock or experimental open passages and no wild instrumental solos. Just pleasant adult pop that you can play when your parents come to visit and neither you nor they will be annoyed by the music.

I admire the way the trio of Josh Ballard (Piano, vocals), Dan Ballard (guitar) and Daniel Dempsey (drums) took a chance by leaving their native Phoenix to achieve their goal of getting a record contract by a self-imposed deadline of June (hence the name Until June). I just wish they had taken similar chances with their music. Instead, with their modest instrumental chops, they chose to emulate some decent bands. But with sub-par songwritng and slightly vocoderized vocals, the outcome is an album full of sweet, soft-rock tunes that are tolerably pleasing (thanks to some expressive guitar work) but also quite ordinary.

The production work of Brian Garcia (Our Lady Peace, Kelly Clarkson) and the band’s attempt at emotionally powerful rock, although falling somewhat short, should get them some airplay on more pop-oriented stations, with “All I Have” being the only track that has the potential to crack the indie-rock airwaves.

If you’re a fan of adult-contemporary music similar to late-era Phil Collins, you might like this record if you can tolerate the lyrics. If not, keep an ear out for “All I Have” and judge for yourself, keeping in mind it’s the best they have to offer.