By Chris Powers
The genre tag “piano rock” is a pretty ambiguous term. On one hand, it implies that 88 keys are directly involved in the writing and recording processes of a song. On the other, it connotes a kind of restrained, emotive style à la Dashboard Confessional or Keane, complete with heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics sung in a thin falsetto. Chicago’s Filligar have little in common with the aforementioned acts, but can’t seem to shake the loosely defined label.
Yes, there are other influences at play on Hexagon, the band’s sixth LP, but the quartet displays an odd fixation with the keyed instrument. Hell, “New Local,” the record’s first track, begins with an elegant piano melody before charging full force into drum-and-bass anchored rhythm. Not only does this feel completely out of place, but it demonstrates Hexagon’s lack of innovative direction.
Hexagon’s pervasive piano deviously crawls its way into the record’s bombastic mix. On “Knock Yourself Out,” the drum kit sounds huge and the driving bass thumps throughout, yet the keys just lightly dance above fracas. This continues on into “Lock & Key,” accentuating the track’s mawkish classic rock hooks. “The Thrill” recalls early Kings of Leon, but a banal guitar and organ groove marches the song dangerously deep into dad rock territory.
Filligar’s arrangements and embellishments amount to a muddied take on classic rock. Thunderous drums, distorted guitar licks and twangy vocals abound, all glued together by that damn piano. It seems the band just bolted on all the tropes they could muster and packaged their tunes in a neatly produced, 12-song disc. Perfectly illustrating this is the nearly eight minute long “Money on the Dark Horse,” which plays like a crash-course in musical self-indulgence. After all, that’s all Hexagon really is anyway, just four dudes hammering out tunes that replicate their classic heroes rather than twisting their influence into original expression.