Record Review by Alex Pudlin
I wonder if folks who grew up jamming to '70s classic rock AM gold stations ever wished that Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty and the remaining Skynyrd guys would all form a supergroup. Either way, I believe such a band now exists. Seattle’s The Believers combine Southern rock riffs with a male/female vocal interplay that at times sounds eerily like Nicks and Petty. Add in a heavy dose of power-pop glimmer and country twang and you’ve got quite a wild cocktail. But does it taste like an expertly shaken margarita or as horrendous as some teenager’s experimental raid of the leftovers of his parents’ liquor cabinet? The Believers’ third record, Lucky You, falls somewhere in between.
On the plus side, principle songwriters/vocalists/guitarists Cyd Frazzini and Craig Aspen complement each other quite well. Tracks like the hard rock stomp of “Lucky You” and the “Go Your Own Way”-aping “I’m Only Dreaming” succeed through the balance of Frazzini’s powerful Nicks-esque wail and Aspen’s gruff warble. Both have a keen sense of melody, evident on catchy numbers like the Johnny Cash rollicking “Ring, Ring, Ring” and the destined-for-Top 40 “Who’s Your Baby Now.” Musically, The Believers have the chops, too. Frazzini and Aspen adeptly layer their sounds with a diverse array of instruments (such as the mandolin and accordion interplay on opener “Higher Ground”) and dozens of smokin' riffs.
However, much of Lucky You suffers from a production sheen that leaves these strong riffs and melodies fairly chilly and detached. The aforementioned “Who’s Your Baby Now” may get stuck in your head, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. The track mixes lightly autotuned vocals with rather generic studio-musician accompaniment to ensure a product that could be a great main title song for an upcoming MTV reality show. Another major liability are The Believers’ lyrics. “Mother Nature” has all the makings of an alt-county classic, but its self-righteous lyrics (“I don’t believe in Muslims, I don’t believe in Jews) upstage the entire affair. Then there’s The Believers mini-obsession with New Orleans, which is name-dropped on at least three songs. You may initially even think these guys are from the Crescent City with all the love they show, except their pronunciation (New Or-leens rather than New Or’lins) is a dead give away.
This all may seem like nitpicking, but added up, these production and lyrical shortcomings give Lucky You an air of inauthenticity. Although Lucky You has many admirable qualities - from exceptional vocals to a few well-crafted songs - it suffers from an inconsistent point-of-view. It’s clear that Aspen and Frazzini love several genres of music, but beyond that, their MO is bit murky. Do The Believers want indie credibility or mainstream success? Lucky You suggests that they want it both ways, which unfortunately mars the record’s overall cohesion and sense of purpose.