This debut LP from Canadian trio opens with a shimmering pop-rock tune that bares some similarity to a slightly heavier Maroon 5, it’s the kind of song that spends its last minute and a half repeating the title Follow Me In over and over before the track slowly fades out. It’s a disspiriting beginning to this 14 track record.
Fortunately Something’s Gotta Give has a nice funk-influenced brass line and Tony Carpino’s drums are lively, it collapses into a Latin-flavoured chorus, with vocalist Michael Bongertman offering up his best Ricky Martin grunts and groans. It’s clear that River Seven want to make popular music, but there’s something a little uninspired about their approach, the production feels a few years behind the times and this is exemplified by You Changed The Routes with its predictable arrangment and saccahrine lyrics; ‘Girl you drive me crazy in the best kind of way/When you say forever, I say forever and a day.’ Maroon 5 were a success partially because there wasn’t much around at the time that sounded like that and they had a handful of catchy choruses, so operating in the shadow of that band and without songwriting as strong makes for something of an uphill struggle.
Baby I’m Alive is the first time they really get the pop mix quite right, it’s a fun song with good backing vocals from Selena Evangeline, balancing nicely against Bongertman’s lead, and whilst it does fall into repeat-the-same-line territory, it, at least, has a certain sense of joyful euphoria that carries it through to its silly happy finale.
There’s an air of Robbie Williams on Leave the Light On, though Bongertman’s backing vocals are quite interestingly arranged, cooing softly in the background whilst the rest of the song is content to be a pretty bog standard pop-ballad. There’s a cover of Jimi Hendrix‘s Little Wing that turns the track into a sugary pop song, and then there’s Happy an MOR pop track that informs us ‘It’s not about diamond rings, all the superficial things, it’s the little things that make us happy.’ It’s got a laidback percussion line, that kind of makes you feel like this would be the perfect soundtrack to a promotional video for a luxury cruise line.
After a Jeff Buckley cover the album comes to a close with the carnival rhythms of Blue, but it’s a party that you don’t feel like you’ve been invited to. There’s one final sneaky remix of Baby I’m Alive which is inferior to the original.
The problem with this rather lengthy pop record is a distinct lack of memorable choruses, Maroon 5 – who this bares the strongest resemblence to – love them or hate them got stuck in your head, but for the most part the songs on this album blur into one another and are easily in one ear and out of the other. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a pop band, but this feels like an album that would have seemed dated even if it was released mere months after 2002’s Songs About Jane.