Californian four-piece Golden State have risen from the ashes of front man James Grundler’s former band Paloalto to finally muster up a UK release of their debut album Division. It creates an interesting situation when someone jumps from one band to form another. Will they try something new? Is it going to be better than before? Well the answer to these questions is they are not that much different. The music’s good, but the sound is mostly the same – anthem led guitar music with bite that will get your foot tapping. Have they done enough to keep the listener interested though, and create a record worth listening to?
Album opener All Roads Lead to Home, gently invites the listener into the record then hits them with a full-on stadium rock U2-esque chorus. Grundler makes no apologies for sounding like Bono sometimes and he doesn’t need to, his vocals fit the style of music perfectly and after listening for a while the similarities begin to disperse and his voice takes on its own characteristics. Setting Sun is another high point; piercing through the misty outlay of Californian Rock is a UK indie vibe that borrows heavily from late 90s bands such as Feeder and Muse.
Speaking of Muse, on a couple of tracks the comparisons get too close to the UK band. Destroyer just sounds like an amalgamation of Muse songs, and although the synths on High Noon are a welcome change, it still has essences that stray too far from the bands comfort zone. The other problem with the record is that the lyrics need to be stronger. Too often do they fall into clichés, which is a shame as fans of the lead singers former band will know that he can do better than this.
For these downfalls however, the record still has many strong points. Golden State are at their strongest when providing the feel-good American rock sound, and they don’t come better than World on Fire. It’s by far the standout track on the album, with its sheer exuberance, fast pace, and truly hedonistic riff brought into the forefront as Grunder shouts “when the worlds on fire I believe in you”. It just goes to show that when they do what they do best, they do it better than anyone else.
Starting fresh with a new line-up is hard to do – Grundler knows this and it feels as though he was expecting it with this album. The ability is there and unleashed in fits and starts throughout, but certain parts of the album feel a little disjointed or relying too much on other bands glories. Hopefully the next album will allow Golden State the confidence to fully rely on their own sound, as when they do that, the world will truly be set on fire by their music.