An album of box-ticking, airwave-satiating harmlessness.
Al Fox 2009
An untimely eviction from American Idol’s fifth series – and the ensuing public uproar – gave aspirant rocker Chris Daughtry a silver lining bigger than the prize itself. Hand-picking a band, applying his surname to a group moniker and churning out a quadruple-platinum debut were perhaps helped in part by the ‘edge’ he’d most likely have foregone as winner.
But having since been trumped in the Idol rock stakes by 2008 winner David Cook and in the voting-travesty stakes by 2009 silver medallist Adam Lambert, it’s interesting to consider whether Daughtry’s output stands up as effectively the further it drifts from its launch pad.
The imposing, anthemic lead single No Surprise does the groundwork in setting up an album equipped with confidence, soaring melodies and an aware yet unpretentious musicianship. It’s therefore somewhat unlucky that Leave This Town fundamentally fails to cash in on this.
It largely refuses to emote, yet isn’t quite cold; it’s plain, yet not quite boring. And while not fully indistinguishable or generic, there’s a definite lack of character. And this is precisely the trouble with Leave This Town: not only is it safe against the bigger AOR picture, but even within the sphere of Daughtry and their capabilities, it steadfastly avoids anything resembling a risk.
It’s worth noting that the eponymous frontman carries a striking, distinctive voice, though its power is somewhat diluted by the backdrop of unfocused, orthodox, interstate-soundtrack rock. And while a comparison to Nickelback would, on paper, be equal measures clichéd and irrelevant, the unwelcome penmanship of Chad Kroeger himself on Life After You leaves one wondering just how comfortable Daughtry’s existing pigeonhole actually is.
A sizeable aptitude is, however, displayed on the unprocessed, stirring Ghost of Me and the epic closer Call Your Name. And perhaps it would’ve been contrived to insert quirks elsewhere simply for the sake of it, but the box-ticking, airwave-satiating harmlessness of Leave This Town overall makes for an album of dependable rock subtleties unlikely to turn many a head here on the sceptical side of the Atlantic.