We Are An Empire, My Dear

In-Flight Safety

Night Danger Records, 2009


REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


I’m a junior in college, but a prime source of my new music lately has been from episodes of Degrassi, the famed Canadian teen drama that’s been airing since the ‘80s. Along with launching the career of rising rapper Drake, Degrassi has also been stepping up its game in culling some great indie bands to soundtrack its episodes, many of them repping the Great White North.

In-Flight Safety (hailing from Halifax, Novia Scotia) lent their track “Model Homes,” from 2009’s We Are An Empire, My Dear, and while it did well to capture an evocative scene in the show, it’s also just an excellent song. Lead singer John Mullane’s vocals are heartfelt and soaring, the harmonies sound perfectly natural, and the instrumentation is lushly adorned with violin and glimmering guitars. Plus, there are just some cool lines that lift this track out of being just palatable pop-rock: “So can you smell these eyes burn? / Can you feel it in your bones?”  and the chorus “And if it leaves a bad taste / You need to wash it down / And if you build a model home / Just burn it to the ground.”my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Being a talented foursome with a penchant for sweeping, heart-string-tugging tunes inevitably brings up the Coldplay or Keane comparison, and there are some similarities. But don’t write these guys off just because you’ve gotten Coldplay-ed out. There’s more of a subtlety to In-Flight Safety, and that lack of bombast for the sake of it adds to a sense of genuineness. Plus, this isn’t just a bunch of simpering love ballads created to draw girls; the lyrics here, instead, often focus on a feeling of isolation and alienation, of the trepidation that comes with risking new relationships. The gorgeous array of instruments and crisp production adds in some contrasting beauty, but the underlying tension is still there.

Take “Big White Elephant,” which is full of jangling beats and Mullane’s clean falsetto, but which repeats the line “All eyes / Always down / Wake up / Don’t you dare to let us down” in a sort of hypnotic lull. Or “Crash/Land” with its strong opening riff and energetic tempo, a triumphant ode to love but also perhaps to dissolution: “We’ll hold our hands as we crash-land into the sea / we’ll ride it down into the ground, just you and me.”

The only thing that dogs We Are An Empire, My Dear is a sense of sameness – while all the tracks are individually well put together, sonically stunning and sentimental, taken in one big chunk, there isn’t enough variation. In-Flight Safety is obviously gifted at creating songs that rise up towards the rafters, but they aren’t quite all anthems yet. What they do best, however, is manage to infuse their songs – which are concentrated on themes of destruction and isolation – with warmth and personality, upping the urgency of this material and ensuring that it’s wholly listenable also.

Rating: B-

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© 2010 Melanie Love and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Night Danger Records, and is used for informational purposes only.