With the obvious flavours of The Killers, Franz Ferdinand and The White Stripes (bands I love) and a cover filled with the implied promise of punk sounds — through the use of punk imagery — I should be over the moon with Bangkok Five’s new CD Who’s Gonna Take Us Alive? and yet, I’m not. Despite the fact that they have a solid sound with heavy guitar influence, distorted basslines, and killer vocals, — lead singer Frost has a voice to die for — they just seem to fall flat for most of this album.
When they get it right, they are very close to greatness. Their title track “Who’s Gonna Take Us Alive” is strong and thumping. “Karmakazi” sounds like a more guitarized version of any Franz Ferdinand song and “Spread Eagle” has a catchy riff. Add “Damaged Goods” and “Live Like a Criminal,” which are unabashedly Indie, and you have a good album.
But when they get it wrong they get it completely wrong. The track “Tiara” starts with puerile live-show-banter explaining why they wrote the song. I didn’t really need to know. In the end, the whole song feels empty and pointless. “Deadlights” and “Party Machine”, meanwhile, seem to belong to a different album altogether. The guitar and bass get much harder and don’t really match the rest of the tracks. The lyrics of both songs are substandard when held up to the rest of the album.
With the glorious exception of “Giana,” this whole album feels like they are trying too hard to be cool – it’s the only song on the album that feels like they are comfortable with their sound. Frost’s sexy, throaty, and highly emotive vocals combined with a muted guitar and bass, really let that fabulous, smooth, rich voice wrap around you and make you feel warm and delicious.
For a band with so much obvious talent, this really should have been a better album. All in all, I think they haven’t quite found a sound they are really happy or comfortable with. However, Bangkok Five is certainly a band I will keep my eye on in future. Before they can be fabulous, they need to stop trying so hard. To quote Yoda, “Do or do not, there is no try.”
Who’s Gonna Take Us Alive? track list
1. Texas Rainbow Field Party
2. Who’s Gonna Take Us Alive?
4. Starting Me Up Again (Diary of a Teenage Cutter)
5. Spread Eagle
7. Damaged Goods
8. Turn It Up
9. Live Like A Criminal
10. Party Machine
11. Chapter 11
12. Dead Lights
13. Giana (God Rest Your Sweet Soul Sister)