Photo Credit: David O’Donohue
The first side of COIN that we’re exposed to on the band’s third album Dreamland is a solid but overall unspectacular cluster of synth-rock tunes, enjoyable and bouncy but largely interchangeable with pretty much any of the similar music sounds out there. “Into My Arms”, in particular, is also unhelped by clichéd lyrics (“And yes I’ve been changing // For me and not you // Smile for the camera // Here’s a shot in the dark”), which start with the title. Still, “I Want it All” is structured with just the right hint of a blues influence, while “Simple Romance” also introduces vocalist Chase Lawrence’s formidable skill in creating memorable basslines on the synthesizer, which he plays throughout the record (as an asset which will resurface on several later tracks, including “Valentine”).
It’s really not until four tracks in that Dreamland truly wakes up and comes into its own. First with “Crash My Car”, a quirky and original “tribute” to an estranged lover (“You can crash my car tonight // Go out wasting all my time and money // I love the way you’re breaking my heart”), which may put some in mind of Morrissey, and the Smiths in their late-stage “Girlfriend in a Coma” era. “Cemetery”, possibly the album’s best track, then reaches even further back in its British influence to a Dickensian lyrical theme based on the classic you-can’t-take-it-with-you adage (“Never made time for the family… // Only made time for the company // But he is the richest man in the cemetery”).
Another standout cut, “Youuu” (not a typooo), which incorporates minor notes at exactly the right places, is also strongly reminiscent of classic British synthpop (particularly Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark). However, the Nashville natives do exhibit their American roots as well, particularly on “Babe Ruth”, which is not just obviously named after one of our country’s all-time most iconic baseball stars but musically hints more than just a bit at another great New York City export, the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody).” But COIN then balance the British and American influences with another strong synth bassline on “Never Change”, which sounds quite similar to the classic bassline which was used on both Grandmaster Flash’s hip-hop classic “White Line” and then (in a slight variance) on Big Audio Dynamite’s “The Bottom Line.”
“Babe Ruth” also includes lyrics that refer to “swinging for the fences,” which COIN certainly does attempt on Dreamland, although foul tips tend to run about 50-50 with the home runs. COIN does definitely shine on some tracks, while on others they seem to be minted more as a Foster the People that we’d be willing to keep only for the weekend (Monday, the latest). As for the album itself, as anyone who’s ever had an actual dream – or at least saw the movie Inception – will tell you, dreams almost always seem much longer than they actually are, and at fourteen cuts with only limited variety, Dreamland is no exception. Frankly, the album may be an argument for the increasingly common practice of releasing tracks individually…COIN might just work better as loose change.