October 30, 2003

Test Spin: The Format

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Talk about irony in advertising. The Format’s inclusion of “lullabies” in their album title hints at soft, reflective crooning conducive to sound nighttime sleeping. Much to my surprise, however, the disc misleadingly opens with the pulsating “The First Single (Cause A Scene)” in which lead singer Nate Ruess energetically yearns for the return of a previous romantic relationship. Tambourines and hand claps complement the singer’s rousing epiphany (“I’ve gotta get myself over me”). But the rest of the Atlanta duo’s debut grows tiresome too quickly with a similar blueprint of schmaltzy, mid-to-up tempo power-pop for each song.

After the aforementioned opening track, The Format can’t muster a single strong melody, let alone a memorable one. This makes each song seemingly impossible to differentiate. Too many tracks sound like tossed-off Ben Folds B-sides (such as “Give It Up” and “A Mess To Be Made”) with piano in front of the studio mix. Eclectic instruments, like the mellotron, baritone sax, accordion, and harmonium, would have helped set apart many of these efforts if only they weren’t buried so deep in the recording mix and thus barely audible to the casual listener. Looking on the brighter side of things, no matter how middling the songwriting is, Interventions and Lullabies really is a perfectly fine substitute for NyQuil. As my indifference turned into mounting lethargy, the album turned out to be quite conducive to sound nighttime sleeping.

Archived article by Brett Rosenthal