Ayo River - Failed State

by D R Pautsch Rating:4 Release Date:2017-08-25

Athens GA is a mecca for inventive, alternative rock.  From REM, through many of the Elephant 6 Collective to the B52’s, its history in the US alternative scene is based on solid foundations and great bands.  Artists have relocated there to be inspired and part of the scene, and people visit to see the landmarks and feel the music.  Ayo River comes from Athens, and there the comparisons can stop.  Their sound is of any place, and they break no new ground.  It’s the kind of MOR indie rock that fills late night alternative radio with such regularity it’s almost there to induce the sleep that you are trying to dodge by listening that late at night.  It’s not bad, it’s bland.

"Jolts" fully lives up the antithesis of its name as it plods and progresses nowhere.  It sounds like a less inspired Nada Surf early in the career. The formula that’s employed on most of the album can be described thusly:  A bit of acoustic guitar, restrained verse, and then a lead into to a slightly disappointing chorus that is louder, has more instruments, and searches for a mantra that will stick in your mind, but largely fails to do so.  "Mercedes" is a more successful version of this formula because it is a bit more slick, and the lethargy that infuses the rest of the album is almost shrugged off.  

The whole album is a frustrating listen as it just feels like the band were coasting through the songs.  Of course there is nothing wrong with an easy listen.  This easy listen glides along the surface of the millpond of rock barely casting a ripple on its surface, and the same will be true of the listener and their memory of this album.  You try and find something in its duration that will inspire fandom, repeated listens and hope of progression, yet such sparks are scarce.  Then you come across "Tantrum Part 1."  It kicks into gear just enough and has lyrics that contain a bit more bite and urgency, which promises much more until "Tantrum Part 2" takes over, sounding like a studio off-cut indulgence, and the whole balloon of hope gets deflated again.  The closing title track rallies to the cause of saving the whole affair with some gusto, but by that point the majority of listeners may have been overwhelmed by sleep or the urge to hit the skip button.

Somewhere in Ayo River there is a band wanting to get out and shake things up a little.  On Failed State the glimpses of that incarnation are too few and between.

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