On paper, there’s nothing strange about Kodaline falling off the wagon after enjoying real success only a few years ago. Modern indie sees some variation of that story happen all the time and sees fit to dredge up the sordid memories of its inability to foster longevity even more regularly, but the difference with Kodaline is that there isn’t one single situation in which caring about them changes the musical landscape even slightly. They’re just as inoffensive as a Coldplay or an Imagine Dragons, but where the former have anthemic swell and the latter have raw volume, Kodaline have nothing of the sort, and their inability to pick up even a vocal fanbase speaks volumes about how incidental their rise to fame was. Their most notable achievement is having a couple of songs serve as theme music for Gogglebox, a fitting accolade given that Kodaline are the closest that modern indie-pop comes to the complete set of empty calories that is reality TV. And thus, does anyone even care that One Day At A Time is being released? There really hasn’t been a shred of relevance covering this band since 2013, and considering this is somehow their fourth album that’s dropping with all the presence and circumstance of a fart in the wind, it primarily seems like a waste of time, with coverage like this coming out of obligation above anything else. After all, for a band like this who once held some sort of standing within a nebulously-defined crèche of ‘alternative’ music, and are now clearly struggling to keep their heads above water, they need all the exposure they can get.
And when you’re in that situation, what you don’t want to do is actively lean in to how much of a boring waste of space you are, but clearly that’s an idea that Kodaline aren’t privy to. Thus, we get One Day At A Time, an album that, even among homogenous, folk-touched indie-pop, can impress simply through how little of substance there is here. Obviously the aim was to make a sweeping, heartfelt album that can win over audiences on earnestness alone, but Kodaline’s efforts universally veer past that and stray into the most cloying, downright wimpy variation of this sound imaginable. There’s not even any justification for that either; this is shallow and empty across the board, the musical equivalent of drinking water in the intake of something totally flavourless that’ll never cross the mind again once it’s over.
It’s difficult to know what to even say or analyse about an album like this, because it is so creatively moribund and lacking in character that it sparks no emotion or passion whatsover. That’s at least something you can sense about Kodaline themselves as well, as the underweight, plodding melodies never coalesce into anything catchy or anthemic, and considering about half of songs want to be the crescendo from Coldplay’s Fix You and nothing else, it’s a bad start when that can’t even be done right. You’ll get the barest hint of acoustic guitar among pianos, percussion and anonymous clouds of backing vocals, all arranged inside the usual big, empty mix to sound grand and sweeping, when really the barrenness combined with a profound of pace is just as tiresome as ever. Except with Kodaline, there’s not even an attempt made to bring some kind of emotional high into the equation, given that Steve Garrigan’s voice has nothing close to power, and his simpering waver is as transparent as efforts to feign sincerity and ‘depth’ get. It’s barely even worth singling out individual songs in this regard, because they’re all the same; there’s not a rough or tough bone in this album’s body, and beyond the horns on Spend It With You and the thin, rattling beat on Care (which isn’t a strength of that song, by the way), every single track is basically an identical piece of edgeless, tasteless mush that’ll fit just perfectly when it’s inevitably licensed out for Christmas adverts and ‘emotional’ X Factor montages. Even on top of that, there’s not a hook or a chorus that even comes close to sticking, and for a band like Kodaline for whom that sense of infallible populism is where all of their stock has been put into, that’s an embarrassing early fall to take.
And then there’s the writing, where Kodaline basically confirm any suspicions of how blatant and shameless a sellout this album is by doing effectively the bare minimum of what’s required from them. They’ve got the tender, heartfelt instrumentation – or what they believe that to be, at least – so all that’s left to do is plug in the most formulaic love song sentiments possible and call it a day. It’s inoffensive by design and excels at wringing every last drop of uselessness from that, such is the case when Wherever You Are, Saving Grace and Say Something are basically the same song in an already formless romantic mould, and any conflict that could’ve made Care or In The End even remotely compelling is whittled down to a threadbare afterthought, and that’s being generous. It’s the ease with which Kodaline’s dime-store philosophies come which is most egregious though, almost as if there’s been no thought or effort put into making this album distinct. There’s maybe one line in the final track that exhibits any form of greater detail beyond the most basic and undercooked of platitudes, and for a band now on their fourth album and who’ve already wound up in something of a tailspin, it’s not even close to the right way to pick up that lost momentum.
Honestly though, there’s no real purpose in giving this album thought, and even by mentioning it at all, it perpetuates the notion that Kodaline actually deserve to be given a chance when all they’ve shown that they’re capable of is falling back to the most insultingly basic well as a means of ‘damage control’. In reality, that’s done the most damage of all; few albums can compete with One Day At A Time in the stakes of being so limp and uninspired, and it just gives the impression of a band who either aren’t bothered with what they put out, or believe their audience is gullible enough to buy this as a genuine product of intent. Of course, both could be true and that feels pretty resounding here, as Kodaline sink further into irrelevance without even the good graces to pretend like they care.
For fans of: The Script, James Arthur, Lewis Capaldi
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘One Day At A Time’ by Kodaline is out now on AWAL Recordings.