[ Typist Notes: Back in May I saw Parachute perform in West Palm Beach as part of a new-artist showcase for the radio station 97.9 WRMF. The group returns to Palm Beach Sat. Dec. 5th to participate in yet another WRMF function, the No-Snow Ball being held at Boston’s in Delray Beach. For further details on this free concert, consult the radio station’s website]
The initial phase of this Charlottesville, Virginia pop/rock band’s existence followed a typical trajectory. Formed by a group of high-school classmates in 2004 (and originally named Sparky’s Flaw after a friend of the band), the line-up then consisted of Will Anderson (lead vocals, guitars, piano), Johnny Stubblefield (drums), Alex Hargrave (bass) and Kit French (saxaphone, keyboards). The bandmates went on to attend the University of Virginia, where frontman Anderson met guitarist Nate McFarland, who joined the band in 2007. But since being signed to Mercury/Island Def Jam Music Group, the band has been promoted in a more non-traditional way, with songs placed in Nivea moisturizer commercials and in episodes for television series such as One Tree Hill and 90210.
The tracks for this the group’s major-label debut had a number of producers, the most notable being veteran helmsman John Shanks whose extensive resume includes Stevie Nicks and The Corrs, and stretches all the way back to the mid-’90s. But, as is the case with most multi-producer efforts, some tracks work better than others. The opening track, “All That I Am” (produced by Chris Keup and Stewart Myers) goes from a quiet intro to full-throttle in a matter of seconds, and while it does ease up eventually, overall the song could have benefitted from a lighter, more dynamic touch. The following track, “Back Again” (produced by John Field) is rendered with a sound that is highly reminiscent of Matchbox Twenty. But Shanks delivers on the awkwardly-titled “She (For Liz) ” ; the ’70s-style piano-driven sound allows the song to breathe, resulting in one of the best tracks of this album, even with its somewhat abrupt ending. And the mid-tempo rocker “Ghost” (produced by the group itself) benefits from a clever aural metaphor: the song’s title lyric (“Let me be your ghost”) is echoed after each chorus, as if the song itself was being haunted.
Most of the songs were penned by Anderson, whose lyrical ability is perhaps best showcased on the ballad “The Mess I Made”. Anyone familiar with romantic regret will relate to lines such as “Should’ve kissed you there/Should’ve held your face/Should’ve watched those eyes/Instead of run in place”. The album’s memorable single “She Is Love” appears twice in this collection, as both a full-band version and as a slower, acoustic-guitar ballad. The full-band version is both the better rendition of this song and the best track on this album.
Overall, this album is very listenable, but one wonders how it would have sounded with more sympathetic, less intrusive production. Someone like Sheryl Crow, John Shank’s old client and collaborator, might have given the album a more acoustic sound which would be more in tune with the group’s live sound. Hopefully such a production approach will be considered for the group’s next release.