Verdict: 2 / 5
Gauteng band, Newton’s 2nd Law, release their eponymous debut album.
The delightfully upbeat, ‘Imaginary World’ sparkles with hope and is an apt opener for the album. Sadly, this groovy jam is hindered by weak lyrics that rhyme incessantly and seem too whimsical and under developed for the song. Take these lines for instance, “I want to go where dreams come true, out in space where trees are blue, a world where there will be no crying, a world where there will be no dying … what are we fighting for? Somebody stop the war”. Maybe the band should have reviewed and reworked the words a bit more. ‘Fact of Life’ opens with a soulful acappella followed by wah-wah chops on the guitar, both of which are supplemented by a solid drum groove that accents a really good song. John Mani sings a catchy refrain, “let’s make it work somehow”, which provides just the right vocal hook the song needed.
‘Need You to Stay’ might not have been the best choice for track three. With such a slow and reflective song the album looses momentum too early. This does not imply that ‘Need You to Say’ is a bad song, as Mani manages to conjure infectious vocal hooks while being accompanied by strong musical arrangements from the rest of the band. However, it seems ‘Memories’ should have been placed at three instead. It is a strong, upbeat electro-pop and rock song with only the lyrics supplying a certain degree of disappointment. The ballad, ‘Clearly Changing’ also ruptures the ebb and flow of the record but is also the pit stop that highlights either the band’s inexperience or the producer’s inaptitude. The song’s varying arrangements i.e., strings, break downs, melody etc., do not work as well as one would have hoped, all the parts diffusing and distracting from each other. Other noticeable concerns would be the production, which is too bare and harsh for the song as well as the length of the track, which is too short and it ends rather too abruptly, a disconcerting trend on the album.
Whether the band is influenced by the Goo Goo Dolls or not, ‘No Reason to Hide’ has an acoustic guitar introduction that is reminiscent of the Buffalo City greats. But by this point the album has lost its identity and form, as the band has changed lanes completely, becoming a soft ballad act. ‘No Reason to Hide’ is another good song but would have worked better next to more up tempo material. ‘Hollow Man’ and ‘Little While’ cement the above stated sentiments. ‘Trees’ injects a bit of life but it is an average song riddled with inane lyrics that use trees as a metaphor for life. ‘Heart Disease’ closes the album, a rhythmic, guitar driven song that should have been placed higher on the tracklisting.
If the band had culled some of the ballads for two or three up tempo numbers then perhaps the album would have had a better flow. Another option might have been to increase the tracklisting in order to balance the slower and faster songs. Yes, having more than ten songs seems to be a sin for young bands these days but having more songs might have worked in this context and with so many ballads on the album things just felt unexciting and too reflective for a new band. Still, as musicians Newton’s 2nd Law holds much promise and hopefully more experience and mentorship will yield finer results.