On the surface, The Exit appears to be no different than most other bands receiving notoriety in the NME. They’re from New York. They’re a “the” band. And they’ve been compared to Television and U2, two bands whose mark can be seen on the hides of many a successful rock band. Yawn.
But then I discover that singer Ben Brewer’s mom has a history of acting and singing in musical theater, having been in Hello, Dolly! and, even more remarkably, Shaft. Upon this discovery, my hope for some sort of musical theater version of Interpol was enclosed in Home For An Island‘s jewel case. Just imagine what Paul Banks would sound like, tackling Rodgers and Hammerstein! Or The Strokes covering Oklahoma! Now there’s an idea.
Unfortunately, like mother, not like son. Broadway didn’t make its way on to The Exit’s sophomore album. But before you get all disappointed, walk away and put Rent in your CD player, hear me out. It’s probably better off that The Exit sounds nothing like musical theater. And, furthermore, even though they haven’t strayed far from simple rock songwriting, they’re pretty darned good at it.
Home For An Island is the product of a band who listened to a whole lot of U2 and The Police and decided that neither were loud enough for their tastes. On Home, The Exit play a hybrid of rock, new wave, reggae and shoegaze that packs a punch, but frequently reminds one of the effects-laden guitar work of The Edge. However, Ben Brewer sounds nothing like Bono. Rather, his voice has more in common with The Mars Volta’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala, the singer of another band that The Exit occasionally sounds like.
Opening track “Don’t Push” sounds something like At the Drive-In covering The Police, marrying pounding beats to a reggae-like rhythm. “Home For An Island” and “Italy” owe a lot to the aforementioned U2. “Back to the Rebels” is straight-up seventies rock that, oddly, has more in common with Thin Lizzy, which might explain Ted Leo’s fondness for the band. “Let’s Go To Haiti” unapologetically kicks ass, in spite of its deceiving title. And “Soldier” is a tender acoustic ballad, because, really, every good album needs one.
The only weak spots on the album come in the middle, when things start to veer in a direction no band should head toward. “Darlin” takes the reggae-rock vibe a little too far, almost to the point of 311 territory. And “So Leave Then” includes some steel drum leads. Ugh. Luckily album closer “Already Gone” grooves enough to make up for these two tracks.
The Exit may not be the Broadway rock I was hoping for. But then again, that just sounds like a horrible idea, despite the amusement I find in it. Home for An Island is a fine rock record on its own, and we’ll just forget all about that musical business.
Sparta – Porcelain
The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta
Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.