CD Review: The Airborne Toxic Event

A recent musical discovery by this writer that has proved to be very pleasing to the ears, is the self titled debut by The Airborne Toxic Event. Based out of Los Feliz, California, this band immediately reminded me of a harder edged version of The Killers. Others have correctly noticed influences by Franz Ferdinand, Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire.

Despite these comparisons, The Airborne Toxic Event very definitely carve out their own sound and niche in today’s musical landscape.

Their debut release is filled with hard edged, aggressive guitars couched in catchy, smart, rock tunes. The lyrics are smart, insightful, and descriptive of various emotions one may go through in dealing with the joy, pain and disappointment found in relationships. Although those topics may not be new to rock music, The Airborne Toxic Event does a masterful job of staying away from cliché driven rock. This is poetry dealing with pain, loss and angst, set to aggressive, catchy, guitar driven rock and roll.

Highlights on the album include the opening track “Wishing Well”, “Papillon”, and the standout single receiving quite a bit of airplay on independent radio, “Sometime Around Midnight”.

“Wishing Well” starts the album off with a melodic synthesizer/keyboard, followed by electric guitars, a pounding, catchy drumbeat, and finally the bass guitar to round out the pulsating sound. The lyrics are creative, as the singer paints a fascinating picture of a character about ready to go out of his mind as he searches for something more, the pain driven by a relationship gone sour. He longs for his situation to be transformed into something magical, like a coin being tossed in a wishing well, and then that wish coming true. Although sweet in its sentiments, the lyrics are also harsh in describing the characters pain. The music is aggressive, pounding, building and toe tapping catchy. This is hard edged, independent rock, sure to speak to the hearts and ears of any listener who has been spurned.

Papillon continues in the same modern rock, hard edged vein. The pace is fast and urgent, with vocals ranging from melodic to screaming, all tinged with emotional pain. The electric guitar is searing in its sound, and paints a perfect background for the song’s character who is clearly “such a mess”, despite trying to convince his friends that he’s “just fine”.

The highlight of this album however, is very definitely the hit single “Sometime Around Midnight”. Getting a lot of airplay on independent music radio, including The Verge on XM, this song is smartly written, with a mix of synthesizer and atmospheric guitar, reminiscent of some of U2’s earlier work. The lyrics paint a fascinating psychological picture of a guy who runs into an ex-girlfriend at a bar, and is obviously not over her. As he sees her leave with someone else, one can almost feel the pain of the knife that must be going through his heart at that moment. Again, the music does a masterful job of painting a tortured picture that the character is going through. This is catchy, well written, alternative rock music at its best.

The Airborne Toxic Event’s self titled debut is a very strong release. If you are a fan of bands such as U2, Modest Mouse and Franz Ferdinand, The Airborne Toxic event is likely to be right up your alley. Smart, humorous, and aggressive sounding, this release is one that will be getting a lot of plays in my ipod, and I would bet yours as well.

Eric Lamb