I didn't even know that Black Lab had a second album until a few weeks ago, a facT that I couldn't quite get excited ENOUGH about once i realized that one of those hail mary wishes you make could actually come true. I suppose you guys no longer get to be the Best Band That Only Made One Album Ever, but I'll gladly take the alternative.
Overall, the first impression I got from the album was a surprising lack of what I expected; a jaded, sometimes melancholy tone that seemed all but guaranteed after the first album seemed almost desperately melancholy at times. I figured if you added the band's struggles to get another album pressed and available, there would be lots of content to mine. So I have to say I was pleasantly surprised that this road wasn't taken, if only because it seems like an easy way out. There's new content, and it's not just frustration.
I'd heard an alternate version of "Perfect Girl" in the period between albums, and I have to say that this version delivers phenomenally. The original impact of the cut I heard was muted at best, but thus far it's my favorite track on the album. One of my favorite aspects of YBAM was how right beside the powerful songs like "Time Ago" were songs that got a little crazy, like "Can't Keep The Rain." This kind of energy here and there was something I really liked then, so getting it full force in "Perfect Girl" was great. I think the way you guys rock when you choose to is great; there's a nice pacing to it. It just seems to roll right. The inclusion "Learn To Crawl", which I'd already had from the Spidey album, was a great choice. It creates a partner piece to the aforementioned song that gives the work as a whole some teeth. That "Wide Open", a song in a similar vein, follows "Crawl" creates a nice level of the kind of tone I've found so entertaining on repeat listens of BL's previous only work. Still, I would have liked a bit more of this sound than is present on the album.
Which, I'm going to admit, I felt at times the album lacked. Without these two songs, I'd probably be a bit disappointed. Not so much over melodic quality or anything like that, but for balance purposes. I like the brand of pop/rock present here; it's a style of music you just don't see anymore. In the mid to late nineties it was a sound that was popular, with little takes on it from a lot of different bands, but the current way rock is moving is away from this sound for sure. The way Black Lab's sound borrows a few synth elements but maintains the type of straightforward sound that YBAM laid out is something I was glad to hear. I like the sound.
As a whole, the work flows well form one song to the next; See the Sun is a good opener, Ecstacy opens up the middle of the album with a great hook, and the 1-2 of "Crawl" and "Wide Open" leading into the album's denouement works well. As someone who very much pays attention to how an album "works" front to back, I think there's a good layout to the organization of the songs, and there isn't the sagging middle so typical among other works in the medium.
My only real complaint (aside from the anthem over rock balance) is not being able to own a Black Lab album with "Keep Myself Awake" on it. We got "Tell Me Why" (which benefits greatly from the remixing it underwent) and "Crawl"; I would've loved to get the trifecta. Though I suppose I understand if the choice to not go with "Black Lab's Best Soundtrack Songs" was intentional. I can't really fault for that.
It's a good example of what makes Black Lab such a unique thing, and why I've been listening to the first album for the 6-7 years that I have. The sound is defined, the melodies are uncomplicated and strong, and Paul's signature voice is exactly the right kind of emotive influence on a song one wants. I love how often his voice goes up a notch on a given line to accentuate it; for the past year or so, musically, it's been something I've been listening for in music but haven't been hearing as much as I want to. Here, it's everywhere, and I love it. Even if I don't like a song in general as much as another, at the end of the day, it's still got Paul Durham's awesome voice, and I feel guilty admitting it, but said voice sure does put the album past most immediately noticeable flaws.
Overall, it's a well-crafted album, well-polished, and confidently put together. It will take time to see if it is up to YBAM's high standards, but even if it's not, it's pretty much what I wanted: more Black Lab. I just hope more people catch on this time around. And I'm replacing my hail mary wish for a new Black Lab album with a Black Lab tour. I won't spill how much money I'd part with to see the band live.