Review: Hedley – ‘Famous Last Words’

Posted: December 15th, 2007
Contributed By: Nick

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Release Date: November 6th, 2007 via Universal Canada
Hedley is:
Jacob Hoggard (Vocals)
Dave Rosin (Guitar)
Tommy Mac (Bass)
Chris Crippin (Drums)

Overview: I bet you fitty dollas you would never guess how Hedley came to be. Start payin’, and once I receive one-hundred fitty, the same amount Hedley front-man Jacob Hoggard was wagered by the rest of his band mates to give the Canadian Idol a try, then we’ll be aite. So Hoggard, armed with $150 (American that is), showcased for the show, and what began as a joke quickly evolved into fate. Hoggard ended up placing in the final trio on Canadian Idol, and shortly after his tenure on the program, Hedley was met with several contract offers. Settling upon Canada’s branch of UMG, the band hit the studio with production titan Brian Howes and began tracking their debut. Hedley’s eponymous debut effort dropped in Canada in September 2005, and, spearheaded by the tremendous response to “On My Own” and “Trip”, the band had a smash almost overnight. A little more than a year later, the then Capitol Records in the United States decided to give Hedley’s album a shot across the border, although it failed to make nearly the dent it had in the quarter’s home province. Shutting the door on the United States, Hedley snuck back into the studio unceremoniously and their sophomore outing, ‘Famous Last Words‘, is the fruit of their efforts. The album is only available as an import to the U.S., but maybe, just maybe, you’ve heard the first single “She’s So Sorry.” No? K, let’s move on.

The Good: For everyone familiar with Hedley’s first release, ‘Famous Last Words‘ picks up right where the band left off, not trying to jettison their strengths in favor of gaudy experimentation. “She’s So Sorry” starts this engine, and right from the get go, Hedley sets the album’s pace, not trying to hide any Aces under the table. “Hand Grenade” is undeniably catchy, and for those who can remember enjoying the brief lifespan of the band Transmatic, said song is right up your alley. “Dying to Live Again” cools the jets but is far from extinguishing the fire, as its emotionally charged tug on the heartstrings is strewn across a gracefully blossoming musical backdrop; the aforementioned cut is also the first moment on ‘Famous Last Words‘ where listeners are reminded of Hoggard’s bombastic and distinguishable vocal delivery. As quick as Hedley got out their lighters, they are quickly shelved for the jolt that is the driving and enveloping “Narcissist”, a rather surprising shot of adrenaline; Hedley grows upon the disposition established with “Narcissist” in its predecessor “Bones Shatter”, a pulsating electro-tinged romp that hips and hops from start to finish. The return to melancholy occurs at “Old School”, which bottles quirky dynamics and nostalgic lyrics into the perfect concoction for Jake Hoggard’s vocals to take front and center once again. ‘Famous Last Words‘ really throws a curve ball by way of “For the Nights I Can’t Remember”, an R&B patterned ballad with a chorus to die for, proving growth and maturity from Hedley. ‘Famous Last Words‘ continues through its museum of upbeat modern rock, offering a handful of can’t-miss exhibits as the album winds down. “Can’t Go Back” is the disc’s moodiest moment, although it strikes just the right balance, teetering seamlessly between ethereal overtones and an 80′s synth-inspired spine. “Been There Done That”, the last stand of ‘Famous Last Words‘ has sly infusions of rockabilly and garage band sensibilities, but again remains firmly rooted in Hedley’s enchanting rock repertoire. ‘Famous Last Words‘ is an admirable extension of the work accomplished on the band’s debut, as the four members of Hedley emanate a much more comfortable, relaxed sound.

The Bad: Famous Last Words‘ is like a Sherman Klump if you will. Sounds menacing, but allow me to explain. While one bulk of material Hedley sculpted for ‘Famous Last Words‘ breathes growth and maturity in all departments, their progress is quickly trampled and nullified by that other bulk. Take for instance the positioning of “For the Nights…” on the album; after completing one of their most memorable, and arguably mystifying anthems to date, Hedley bastardizes nearly all of the momentum established by the aforementioned song, as the forthcoming latter tracks, the downright boring “Brave New World” and the generously elementary lyrics of “Dear Blank” sees Hedley putting their foot back on top of an already sinking ship. The pattern continues with “Can’t Go Back”, one of the album’s saving graces, which dissipates as soon as the tape of the just awful song “Never Too Late” has its tryst; although “Been There Done That” is an honorable apex to ‘Famous Last Words‘, the damage has already been done, making what could, in reality, be an album with eons of repeat listening potential and shamelessly turn off its lights before it ever has a chance to recover. Clearly, Hedley shows up to play during the album’s astute half, but boasts a laissez faire attitude during its nauseating moments, almost as if the band felt their well-implemented track listing structure could mask the gaping holes that drain much of the oomph out of ‘Famous Last Words‘.

Bottomline: In all honesty, if you are familiar with Hedley’s sound, then their often times hard to take seriously and borderline sugarcoated approach shouldn’t come as a shock; what should be surprising is the fickle nature of ‘Famous Last Words‘, as the band’s debut was crisp, focused, and showed an unrelenting urgency that must have abandoned Hedley somewhere in between the two studio sessions. Honestly, it pisses me off to have to call them out, be it intentional or not, because Hedley’s debut was one of the few albums in recent time that has truly “grown” on me, even a year after I first purchased the disc. The band just seems confident that the spotlight moments of ‘Famous Last Words‘, many of which defeat their debut’s sharpest points, can bolster the lackluster chunk of the album that serves as its cement shoes. ‘Famous Last Words‘ has enough to just barely satiate the palate, but if you haven’t scoped out Hedley yet, you may want to rally up their first offering, because you may actually give a damn about what you hear on that more than Hedley showed they cared toward one of the most anticipated follow-up albums in Canadian rock history.

Rating: 5 out of 10