News Column

'Tuned In' review: Assembly Line cranks out crowd-pleasers

October 29, 2013


Oct. 29--The Assembly Line seems to have adopted a straightforward name.

Consider: The group members found each other in 2009 by way of Craigslist, and in workmanlike fashion they set about producing a near-generic product (hook-oriented pop/rock) for the most lucrative demographic in the middle of the main-stream (young women). Market research was favorable (placement of their songs on MTV shows with a high viewership among young women, "Teen Mom 2" and "16 & Pregnant"), so the Assembly Line manufactured fresh product to meet the needs of an anticipated continued demand.

As a result, the new EP "The Places We Leave Behind" features songs that could easily land The Assembly Line in the mix of more MTV shows.

Still, making music is a job, just like making anything else for mass consumption, so kudos to the New York City indie pop/rock band for producing something so easy to consume.

Lead singer Thor Nguyen (love the name) panders to young, misunderstood lovers on "Just Kids" with, "All they say now is that we're too young to fall in love/That we don't know what it means/But I swear I know, I swear I know."

If that's too manipulative, try on his optimism in the sweeping opener "Tonight (There's Only Us)," where he sings, "I'm barely breathing now/Tonight, tonight/We've got the spotlight/And I feel so high, like the world is mine." He's also the steady, supportive voice in the rock frenzy of "The Tide."

Ultimately, "The Places We Leave Behind" is more than serviceable for those in need of an anthem du jour. Yet there's a bump in the assembly line, a disconnect between clear-voiced Nguyen, who could be singing for a boy band, and the musicians -- guitarist Chris Potter, bassist Zach Falkow and drummer Josh Ridley -- who appear to favor a rougher sound. Nguyen is like the pretty bow on a scuffed-up package, a distracting mismatch.

It's nothing a consensus-building committee can't resolve with a few meetings, however.

Rating: 3 stars (out of five)


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