Often overshadowed on both sides of the Atlantic by the likes of Coldplay and the hundred or so other bands of their ilk who compose lush, mopey guitar-pop, the trio South enjoyed an elevated profile in 2004 thanks to the inclusion of one of their singles, From Here On In‘s “Paint The Silence,” on the soundtrack to The O.C., which continues to market “indie” as a genre unto itself to an entire generation of high school kids. The flagship act for new label Young American, South’s response to this uptick in attention is Adventures in the Underground Journey to the Stars, an album that loses the electronic elements that distinguished their earlier work and ends up sounding a whole lot like another middling album that followed a minor-league breakthrough, Death Cab for Cutie’s Plans. The band’s strength remains its ability to construct massive melodic hooks, and songs like “Up Close And Personal” and “A Place In Displacement” are designed for the reverb and echoes of an arena, while the sweeping “Pieces Of A Dream” and the bookends of “Shallow” and “Flesh & Bone” demonstrate the enormity of sound and the ambition of scope that have always given South greater heft than, say, Travis. While much of the album, on the surface, does sound adventurous, like Plans or Coldplay’s X&Y, it’s the aggressive banality and dependence upon clichés of the lyrics—there’s a reference to “hate” in seemingly every track, and it turns out that South isn’t among its advocates—that prevents the album from ever making a statement as big as that sound. The awkward title something of a giveaway, Adventures is a bright, beautifully wrapped package filled with nothing but styrofoam packing peanuts. It’s easy to admire prettiness, sure, but there’s just not much to do with it.
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