The first thing that strikes you about The Year of Magical Drinking is the cover, with its double exposed photo of a long-haired man over shrubbery. One might be reminded of Van Morrison, but the album isn’t so much like Astral Weeks, but rather about a dozen other works. One can hear a multitude of influences, all with a roots-rock or Americana bent, leaving at least this listener with a feeling of confusion. It’s almost like listening to a compilation that includes the likes of Wilco, the Eagles, CCR, Bob Seger, Iron & Wine and Tom Petty rather than the work of a young band.
That being said, the songs aren’t half bad, though it’s difficult to get a feel for the band’s voice, as they jump from mimicking one artist to another. From the outset, the hooks are readily available, but so are the constant echoes of other musicians. “Southern Cross” suggests The Strokes singing Springsteen, “Under The Gun” recalls The Strokes again, but with Sting singing, and “I Know These Wawters Well,” “Party Line” and “My My Mind” all strongly resemble Wilco.
Granted this is a crass over-simplification of the songs, but it gives an idea of the schizophrenia of the album. To this listener, it sounds like the band is trying to be good at too many things (which they are) instead of being great at one. It should also be noted that lead-singer Ross Flourney has a strong vocal resemblance to Jeff Tweedy that can’t be ignored, further contributing the constant reminders of Wilco stated above.
Apex Manor has great ability and potential, but seems to be stuck replicating their heroes instead of themselves. Bear in mind that you could do a lot worse than their influences, and that musicians like Bob Dylan, The Who and Badfinger all began by taking major cues from their idols (Woody Guthrie, The Kinks, and The Beatles, respectively) and created some original, wonderful albums. Like many other bands that begun in this way, Apex Manor would make great strides by focusing on finding their own voice or building upon their influences to create something new.
Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever
The Strokes – Is This It
Listen: Apex Manor: MySpace