We Were Born in a Flame
First Appeared at The Music Box, August 2003, Volume 10, #8
Written by John Metzger
Have no fear: If you havenít heard of Sam Roberts that will change soon enough. Now on his second attempt at rock stardom, Roberts unexpectedly hit it big in his native Canada last year with The Inhuman Condition, a six-song EP. We Were Born in a Flame, his full-length debut released in June, was constructed around three tracks from that outing, and itís geared towards maximum exposure in the U.S. market, which is both a blessing and a curse.
Robertsí songs are full of í60s-influenced melodies, harmonies, and instrumentation, all pulled together via modern-era, radio-friendly production. His voice is frequently reminiscent of Perry Farrell, and as a result, the bulk of We Were Born in a Flame sounds like Janeís Addiction opted to delve into Beatle-esque pop. Throughout the albumís thirteen tracks, Roberts guides his band from the garage-rock of On the Run to the neo-psychedelia of Brother Down to the dreamy orchestrations of Taj Mahal. The problem is that the transitions, emulations, and assimilations arenít always smooth, and although the arrangements work on paper, his songs, at times seem forced into a preconceived mold. For example, On the Run begins with a Clash-like fury but devolves into tired post-grunge alternative rock, and Donít Walk Away Eileen is an inevitable modern rock hit, though thatís not necessarily a good thing.
Yet, Roberts offers up a few gems as well, such as the effervescent, McCartney-esque No Sleep; The Feeliesí post-punk, indie-rock swagger of Hard Road; and the Wilco-ish roots rock of Dead End. In the end, however, it will be the recording of his next album that ultimately determines the path that he will take. He can choose the easy road that leads to heavy airplay and massive album sales, or he could opt to travel the more difficult route, turning away from production styles that make his songs sound generic, thereby retaining some semblance of artistic creativity. We Were Born in a Flame demonstrates that Roberts would be quite at home no matter which direction he chooses. For the record, however, thereís enough promise here that his fans undoubtedly hope itís the latter.
We Were Born in a Flame is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box