War Poets’ new EP is very aptly titled – it is certainly American and certainly dreamy. It’s like The Great Gatsby in 21st century musical form. With this lofty title in mind, War Poets choose to sing about the big things in life on this six track release. The EP is full of rousing choruses and chugging guitars, as if the band is aiming to create songs as big as their subject matter.
Yet, the problem with War Poets is that it’s all been heard before: an American four-piece singing about a collective disillusionment with their country/society/life in general, with lots of angry, searching lyrics sung with a cheesy American sheen. For bands to sound like other bands is completely fine, often great, if they do something interesting and different with their similar sounds. War Poets, on the other hand, seem to see the answer lying in some very dubious rapping sections on ‘Shadows’, which feels like a misfired attempt to urbanise their sound, which for a classic rock band simply does not work. If you’re going to do rapping in a rock song, go for lazy rapping a la ‘One For the Road’ by Arctic Monkeys, or ‘World Pleasure’ by Peace, which is fresh, welcome, and more importantly works. Don’t do a War Poets, and get a woman to break off into some freestyle rapping mid-way through a song that touches on experiences of depression. It just sounds confused, and ever-so-slightly embarrassing.
‘Sarah’ sounds like a love song written and sung by the hillbilly from The Simpsons (‘But your cute little smile goes a long way’), and despite some promising guitar riffs, the melody of ‘Pay the Piper’ is so predictable and uninspired, it is instantly forgettable. However, closing track ‘Hey There’ helps pull this EP out of its potential to be an unmitigated flop. Trumpets add an extra dimension (very welcome after the mediocrity of the previous offerings), and there’s elements of punky vocals mixed with jangling guitars and thumping drum beats.
As far as classic American rock bands in this century go, War Poets are no Black Keys. This EP feels as if they’re punching above their weight, and falls a little flat. War Poets have the potential to write a really cracking rock song, but they choose to go off on ill-informed tangents, as if they’re acutely aware that they might bore the listener if they don’t mix things up a bit. The band can’t quite pull off these odd ventures into other genres – whether rap, power ballads or country music. All in all, they’ve still got a way to go until they find that American dream.