The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations is not only the smallest state in New England, it is also the smallest state in the US. Actually, Puerto Rico and Northern Mariana Islands are both bigger than Rhode Island as well. Yet Rhode Island still manages to pump out great music, my favorite being Amazing Royal Crowns but the more popular being Black Dice, Deer Tick, Sage Francis, Les Savy Fav, Lightning Bolt, and Throwing Muses to name a few. Not on that list is MakeUpBreakUp. Perhaps that is because the band just formed in 2007, but more likely it is because they just recently released their debut album, Scents.
Not to say the list may not someday include MakeUpBreakUp. The group has some of the main ingredients for success. The group mixes new wave panache with Madchester to form something that is sounds like Hot Fuss-era The Killers covering The Stone Roses. Take for instance “Better Days”. The track mixes a lazy disco drum beat with U2-esque guitar noodling while vocalist Michael Lamantia Jr. gives his best Ian Brown impression. The song may have a dance beat but it does not feel overly joyous. It has a sense of melancholy about it which gives it more esteem than the usual discotheque fodder.
But the prevailing feeling of melancholy drapes the entire album, making it feel almost like a sad album even the dance rhythms should balance it out. It is disconcerting to bob your head to the Parliament-Funkadelic-esque bass intro to “Create Something From Nothing” but then feel down by the end of the track but that is the power of Lamantia’s emotive voice and the power of a minor synth line. What is most confusing to me is figuring out if I like this or not. In the end, each song really hinges on its hook which seems very hit or miss with MakeUpBreakUp. Opening track “WOW” is probably the most impressive and lasting hook while towards the end of the album the hooks seem to become less and less memorable.
In the end, I feel like I should like Scents more than I do. All the ingredients are there for a very successful debut album yet the whole is not equal to the sum of its parts. Danceable synth-driven rock with dance beats usually equals a great time but minor synths line and alternative rock vocal melodies leave the album feeling a little more stale than it should.