The era of sensitive, reflective, band-driven pop-rock lost much of its relevance long ago. However, The Step, a pop/rock band founded in Rome but based in London, is bringing back that sound with its debut EP, Gravity.
Primary members Stefano Donato and Oliviero Fella worked on four tracks on this release, which concludes with its breakthrough Let It Go Friends. Whilst Donato’s reedy vocals are nicely reminiscent of George Harrison and the instrumental sections feature quality performances akin to Coldplay, the EP leans towards the forgettable.
Something More opens up the EP hopefully, as its wistful guitar intro warms up like a gradual sunrise and morning coffee. The track then becomes pedestrian, with cliched lyrics about caring for each other sung over a melody that tries to hook listeners in but instead passes through.
The steady but stock-standard title track also needs a bit of edge. It sounds like the shoegazing-type, The Fray-lite type of music suited for an episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, apart from the touching guitar solo towards the end.
The piano ballad Black Magic provides the first real hook on this release. A slow-burner at first, another atmospheric guitar solo at its close heightens the emotional impact.
Yet it is Let It Go Friends that really shows the band’s potential. The intro of guitars, piano and vocals are an effective build-up, creating a sense of impending musical climax. And it does come and it does pay off. The track ultimately has what much of the EP lacks: hooks, urgency, drive, emotion and even spontaneity (as evident in the random drum hits).
On Gravity, The Step at its worst borders on weepy and whiny. At its best, it leans towards melodic yet safe pop-rock. It will be a while before it can rival even early-Coldplay’s musical spark.