David Cook offers a full plate of smooth, well-crafted pop-rock on Digital Vein, the American Idol Season 7 winner’s fourth studio album and his first since This Loud Morning, which reached Billboard Top 10 in 2011.
Mostly self-produced, the polished tracks vary in originality and interest. There’s an overall monotony to the album’s precision sound, with songs like “Broken Windows” and the single “Criminals” building to obvious choruses over the kinds of small-range melodies we’ve heard a million times before. On the other hand, “Heartbeat” and the low-key, Peter Gabriel-esque “Better Than Me” rise above the generic. And the single “Carry You” has a winning if not very original melody.
Welcome touches of variety emerge here and there: in the synthesizers and frenetic beats of “Kiss & Tell,” in the torchy (though bland) “Wait For Me,” and in a moody, theatrical take on Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” I looked forward to hearing that last track, but found it disappointing, because Cook’s vocals are strangely colorless, lacking the snaky passion of Isaak’s iconic original performance.
Several of the best songs nestle near the end of the album. In the silvery pop nugget “Where Do We Go” Cook delivers the emotion he doesn’t find in “Wicked Game.” He hits pretty hard in “Firing Squad” even through some clichéd lyrics. And Digital Vein closes with the lovely, sad ballad “But You Won’t,” with its knowing lyrics: “We could find our way home/But we won’t.”