Sometimes a new artist comes out who releases a debut that isn't new, isn't extraordinary, and doesn't stand out. Other times they can release a debut that's spectacular and amazing. The Normals did the former. However, when the new artist's sophomore project rolls around, it's commonly a step down or a disappointing continuation of their first effort. Amazingly and thankfully, The Normals broke the mold.
For someone who was strongly unimpressed with their self-titled 1998 debut CD, I was pleasantly shocked by their sophomore musical portrait Coming to Life. The album is being advertised as an album you can read like a book. And it's true. The lyrics are honest, poetic, and are complimented by the melodic and moody music. Lead vocalist, Andrew Osenga appears to have had a complete shift in musical direction. His emotional, sometimes strained-sounding vocals feel more at home with the melodic and passionate music better displayed on Coming to Life. Ironically, The Normals have done just that-- come to life. Forget the 3-piece boys who brought you the first album. The Normals have been reinvented as a 5-piece group of men with much talent to offer.
The only problem that seems to exist on Coming to Life is it suffers mildly from a feeling of "sameness." Each song stands apart as it's own musical story, but the album continues with one song after another having the same exact feel-- 12 times. The album begins with the mildly upbeat "Every Moment" and "The Best I Can," before immediately slowing down for much of the rest of the album. Although Andrew really pushes his vocals on this project, to the point of pain, he doesn't really vary the sounds it can produce.
Album highlights are easily the first two previously mentioned tracks, "Don't Hold Back," "These Times, and the catchy, upbeat "Two Wrongs and a Right." The Normals have started anew and have created a highly artistic and fantastic sophomore album. If you were a fan of their debut record, or had no tolerance for it like myself, be sure to check out Coming to Life. It'll surprise you-- in a good way.- Review date: 6/26/00, written by John DiBiase
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