Presumably what made Remo Drive stand out earlier on was their sense of confidence. They’re a band whose sound is deeply embedded the indie-rock and emo that’s built around uncertainty and self-deprecation, so to release a debut album titled Greatest Hits felt like an intriguing change of pace, and even if it didn’t do that much beyond the norm, it was ultimately enough to put the wheels in motion for something more to potentially come. It’s just a shame that hasn’t happened yet, with the abortive Pop Music EP last year that ended up being forgettable in the extreme, and just a general lack of presence within the scene despite being made out as such a significant draw. It feels as though that potential has done little more than dissipate and thrust Remo Drive back into the background, to the point where titling their sophomore full-length Natural, Everyday Degradation appears to be playing up derivative emo ideals that only seems even more anonymous.
More than that though, it’s like Remo Drive are struggling to find anything to do beyond that for the duration of this album, and wind up with what effectively feels like the same middling song repeated eleven times over, stripped of any clear punch or character for a safe, uninspired run-through of emo emptiness. And sure, for the diehard emo fans who’ll happily consume anything that the genre vomits out without question, this is a sufficient addition to the buffer that blocks anything close to innovation; otherwise, Natural, Everyday Degradation is exactly what its title proclaims it to be, and that makes it all the worse.
And that’s worth recognising as well, as while Remo Drive could’ve undoubtedly gotten by with a more traditional emo framework thanks to utilising some greater charm or even humour, here that’s been sanded away entirely to the point where Erik Paulson’s quivering, nasal vocals barely ever leave their one designated range, and thus it simply makes him sound like an artist going through the motions who’s really struggling to care about any of this. There are moments where that doesn’t feel entirely true, like the knowing wink that accompanies the lift of AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long on Shakin’, but Natural, Everyday Degradation is so staunch in its adherence to roundabout emo averageness that – particularly when paired with Paulson’s delivery – becomes incredibly difficult to care about. Separate Beds and Ezra And Marla are about as tired in their language as the fading relationship they outline; meanwhile Two Bux takes a potentially interesting concept of guilt from a religious upbringing seeping into later life and squanders it with a general lack of vibrancy, or really emotion of any significant stripe. It makes for music that exists but does very little else, especially as Remo Drive rarely seem up for giving their material much resonant power beyond the absolute bare minimum.
Unfortunately the instrumentation isn’t much better in this regard, but at least Remo Drive have the good graces to pack in the occasional melody with sticking power, like the jumpier gallop of The Grind with a melody that gets repurposed to good effect on the squalling solo of The Devil. There’s definitely a melodic core within this album that, when fully given the chance to shine, can deliver the pop hooks that Remo Drive could benefit immensely from. The problem, though, like with a lot of this album, is the reluctance of the band to do anything with what they’ve clearly got, which means that far too much of Natural, Everyday Degradation defaults to forgettable, underwhelming indie-rock box-ticking that barely manages to land a single note by the end of it all. In isolation, there are potentially things to like about Around The Sun or The Truth, but when they’re simply the latest iteration of fuzzily-produced, ragged-by-design indie-rock that’s been done a literal billion times before, and is given no twist to speak of, it makes for the same problem that everything else on this album has, in that just hard to care. It’s not like Remo Drive are pushing themselves to make anything that truly warrants interaction; they’re just going through the motions, and with how blasé close to every piece of this album is, it shows.
And in the end, that doesn’t make for a satisfying listen at all. When almost everything that Natural, Everyday Degradation brings to the table can be applied to countless other bands, that’s hardly a good sign going forward, and when they didn’t have starts as auspicious as Remo Drive’s was, it begs the question of what they hoped to achieve here. This isn’t going to stand out or convert others to their cause, not when it’s as played-out and boring as this, and given that fans of their debut already seem to be lukewarm on this one at best, this can really only be described as a failure across the board. It’s not what Remo Drive should be putting out, but when it leads to an album that dissolves on impact and never does anything more, it might be the wake up call they need to shape up.
For fans of: Wallows, McCafferty, Mom Jeans.
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Natural, Everyday Degradation’ by Remo Drive is out now digitally on Epitaph Records. It is released physically on 14th June.