Vertical Horizon: Burning the Days

“I’m done with the middle ground,” moans lead singer Matt Scannell on the third track of Vertical Horizon’s latest album, but nothing could be further from the truth. Burning the Days is, in fact, the most relentlessly, punishingly middle of the road record you’ll have the displeasure of hearing all year, a solid block of dull beige mid-tempo ballads that will leave all but the most rock-allergic listeners resorting to desperate measures – such as punching one’s self in the throat, for example – to break up the monotony. Whoever engineered or mastered it deserves a Grammy simply for staying awake; conversely, Rush’s Neil Peart – who plays drums on three tracks and wrote lyrics for the album closer, “Even Now” – is old and successful enough to know better, and should be severely punished for encouraging this kind of senseless, yawning musical horror. Scannell has always had a weakness for adult contemporary mush, but Burning the Days represents a new, nougaty soft frontier for his music; it’s an experiment in blandness that makes MOR dozers such as Chicago’s XXX sound like Sgt. Pepper’s-level works of genius. The bitterest shame of the whole thing is that Vertical Horizon is on its own label again, free from corporate interference, and could have chosen this moment to make a strong artistic statement. For what few hardcore fans the band has left, this might be worth your time and money, but for anyone else, it’s positively deadly. (Outfall 2009)

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