By Katie Knowlton
Disconnected, the debut full-length album from England’s Beat Union is an average pop-punk album by today’s standards, but there are moments on the record that show the potential this young band has.
Like many up and coming music acts, Beat Union is a mix of pop-punk and dance-rock, a combination of catchy hooks, stadium filling choruses, and danceable drum beats. Beat Union makes things a bit more interesting by throwing in a bit of ‘70’s UK punk influence, especially in the vein of The Clash. Quite a few of the tracks have hints of reggae and ska, and this manages to set Beat Union apart from seemingly thousands of similar sounding pop-punk acts, if only by a little.
“Disconnected,” the opener and title track is a catchy song. It’s filled with power chords and an easy to sing along to, gang vocal backed chorus. The song is fairly representative of the rest of the record: fun to listen to, but not all that memorable.
The main problem with this album is that most of these songs would not sound out of place on an All Time Low or Amber Pacific record. In fact, the opening of “My Heart Stops Beating” sounds almost exactly the same as Amber Pacific’s song “Follow Your Dreams, Forget the Scene.” There is not necessarily anything wrong with sounding like either of those bands, but like All Time Low or Amber Pacific, Beat Union is overproduced and of little substance.
A number of the tracks feature extra instrumentation, such as strings or keys, which really seem unnecessary. They went with the “everything but the kitchen sink” method of producing this record. It would have benefited from some self-editing on the part of the band and the producer, John Feldmann, of Goldfinger. Without these extraneous elements, the album would have had a more raw and fresh feel to it, instead of being a retread of the same thing that’s already been produced hundreds of times now.
Lyrically, Disconnected is also average at best. Songs of love and loss fill this record and there are few instances of complex use of language. They are straightforward, easy to understand, and radio friendly. The themes explored are nothing new, including the almost standard song about music as a savior, “Can’t Stop The Radio.”
There are a few things going for Disconnected, which keep it from being an entirely bad album and making it instead an average album that had potential to be good. The slight reggae feel in a few of the tracks is much more pronounced on “Pressure Zone,” “Dancing In Our Sleep,” “Don’t Have Love” and “Can’t Stop The
Radio.” The Clash’s influence shines through, making these tracks breaths of fresh air. Also, front man Davey Warsop’s distinctive vocals are more suited to this style of music than the glossy pop-punk that fills the rest of the album.
Feldman deserves some credit because even though this album is extremely overproduced, it is mixed very well. Normally on these sorts of records, the vocals and guitars are mixed way too high and overpower the rest of the band. In this case, the drums of Luke Johnson and the bass playing of Ade Preston are allowed to shine just as much as the guitars and vocals. This is great because the bass and drum work is the most interesting aspect of the music. Johnson and Preston show a fair bit of talent, but not enough to save the record from mediocrity.
Disconnected will give Beat Union their fifteen minutes of fame with the under-twenty Warped Tour crowd. There was the potential for greatness in this album, but unfortunately the producer had far too great a hand in making it, leaving it overproduced and bland. It’s good for a mindless listen now and then, but Disconnected will not be on any “Greatest Albums of All Time” lists anytime soon.