The Wanteds – Failure Looks So Good

The Wanteds
Failure Looks So Good

Starting off the album with “Ladysmith”, guitars come pouring through that immediately have you thinking that this must be some Silversun Pickups song that hasn’t made it to an album yet. But then, just as quick as the thought entered your head it gets shoved right back out again as the vocals of Tommy Harrington come screaming onto the scene. I remember when I first heard a Silversun Pickups song and wondered for awhile if it was a girl with a really good screaming voice or a guy who could easily be taken for Shirley Manson – vocally that is. But with Harrington, the vocals are completely different and conjure up images of what The Smashing Pumpkins might have sounded like if Billy Corgan had been replaced by Perry Farrell. Perhaps it might have sounded a little bit like The Wanteds, at least in terms of contrast. At first I don’t like it, the vocals and music seem to be competing. But on subsequent listens, it grows on me and I find the combination to be quite appealing, like two slightly different genres combing together to form a band, much in the same vein as Audioslave.

Nothing about Harrington’s vocals are soft or beautiful but that’s what makes it interesting. He’s been through a lot in his day and has shed his old ways along with a home in California for a place up north in Portland where he can put pen to paper. The things he’s been through and the roughness of his past shows through in the musical quality and lyrics for something that feels very honest and straight from the heart.

When “365” starts, it reminds me of The Gamits, a Colorado-based band with a mixture of power pop and punk. The guitars launch right into full energy and Harrington’s vocals feel a bit out of place and rusty when they first start up. But they get better as the song moves on and the screaming chorus lines feel like he’s giving his all and it works well.

“Limitless” starts out feeling like it has some potential with vocals over simple chord strumming before being interrupted by full rock mode. At this point the song doesn’t quite hold it’s own for me. The vocals really remind of Perry Farrell and since I’ve never been a big fan, I find Harrington’s vocals hard to enjoy here. The song isn’t a bad one, the music is played well and it is somewhat catchy, but I don’t find anything about it particularly striking.

“Heart Shaped” is a mellow piano ballad and a nice breather in a high energy album. The vocals here feel far away and sad. The song is simple with very few layers and while Harrington’s vocals are certainly not what might be traditionally thought of as beautiful, his words here feel very genuine and full of raw emotion which has its own beauty. While I wouldn’t want to hear a whole album of songs like this, it is a nice contrast with the rest of the tunes and I think he should explore bringing piano into his other songs.

After a couple songs midway through the album that fall a bit flat, “Perfect” comes along. It starts out with a simple guitar strumming melody over drums that is really catchy. I don’t feel like he’s trying too hard here like I felt in some of the previous songs. Sometimes the energy level feels like it’s being pushed on the album but here it feels just right. There is potential here. It’s a good song like the earlier ones on the album. The album closer “Something Boring” is just Harrington’s simple vocals over acoustic guitar. His voice is rusty and cracks. I am not sure if I want to reach out and give him a glass of water or a Kleenex because the quiver in his voice almost makes him sound close to tears. There are moments where his vocals take on a more breathy quality and I wonder what other tones his voice can take on.

Essentially being a one-man band is tough and while The Wanteds music doesn’t have the multiple layers of guitar floating under male and female vocals like other groups in his genre, The Wanteds is trying to achieve a more personal sound and does a good job at that. At some points I think the songs would benefit from a bit more detail and at others I think anything extra would ruin the mood but all in all, but this is a good debut with solid music and with intelligent and personal lyrics. At times Tommy Harrington’s vocals got to be grating since they sound awfully similar in style throughout the album but with hints here and there of small vocal changes. I believe with a bit more exploration he can find more versatility within his voice and makes his lyrics stronger and push his music to the next level.