With the track record DREAM Records has with signing electronic artists, Satellites & Sirens seemed like the perfect fit for the label. Starting off from a Craigslist ad in Nashville, the band has always carried a flair for the electronica style. Coming off the heels of the independently-produced Frequency, Geoff Hunker and his rotating lineup released One Noise, which sanded off some of the edges of the sound Frequency solidified. And two years later, the eccentrically titled Tanks is the follow-up, and unfortunately, it's a step backward.
In fairness, S&S is a band that's identified their sound and stick to it, and Tanks is a natural continuation of One Noise. The problem is, it's just as dry now as it was two years ago. It has too many guitars to be a full-fledged electro-pop effort, but calling S&S an "alternative rock band" wouldn't be accurate either; this is a common trait of many artists on DREAM Records, and S&S is yet another band to join this trend, but even artists like Jonathan Thulin and the up-and-coming Matthew Parker are more firmly rooted in the electronic space to call their sound their own.
While this sounds odd, this sound is almost too accessible. From start to finish, Tanks blurs together with a mishmash of guitars, synths, altered vocals, and drum machines that it's hard to decipher where the generated sounds end and where the traditional instruments begin. This could very well be a case where S&S's live shows are more demonstrative of the band's true electronic identity, but in the last few years, this musical identity hasn't translated well in recorded form, and this started as soon as their independent status went away.
This isn't to say that there aren't a few songwriting curveballs; "Chasing Photos" (which also features some previously-unheard falsetto from Hunker) focuses on enjoying moments as they happen instead of living life behind an Instagram filter, and "Old Souls" serves as an appreciation piece to one's current stage of life ("We grow up so fast just to hate being old"). But these developments don't hide the barrage of cliches throughout the album, such as "Love is the new fight" ("Tanks"), "I want to love so much, it erases hate" ("Stereo"), and "It's enough to just be enough" ("Enough"). Even the album's title track uses an oddly violent allegory for loving others ("like tanks you can trust, we will crush everything with love"). It's creative, maybe, but it's hardly compelling.
On "Stereo," Satellites & Sirens asks, "Shouldn't we be setting the trends instead of just playing pretend?" It's a fair question for Christians alike, and the band would do well to apply this reasoning to their own musical progression. Tanks is a harmless outing, but as the band's fourth full-length album, it reveals a seasoned band that's still under-equipped in its musical arsenal.
- Review date: 10/14/16, written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com