Well-worn and forgettable AOR songs that come from where the streets have no name.
‘Out of the Heart of Darkness’ is the third album by California’s L.A. Edwards – main songwriter/ frontman, Luke Andrew Edwards, and his brothers, Jesse Daniel and Jerry. Curiously, the record opens with a spoken word prelude – a boy talking about being in water at night, unable to breathe and yelling out for his dad, but then we’re plunged into the rousing and anthemic power pop of ‘Little Boy Blue’, which is one of the few highlights.
The mid-paced, wistful and atmospheric ‘Now You Know’, another half-decent moment, has a country rock feel – there’s pedal steel on it – and a touch of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘America’ about it, thanks to its folky, Celtic instrumental section, while ‘Let It Out’ takes another trad, troubabour-style melody but welds it to more power-pop and adds a commercial, er, L.A. rock sheen.
Considering that the band were chosen to support Lucinda Williams on tour, it seems odd that the record doesn’t really sound like an americana one – Grammy-award winning mixer, Tom-Lord Alge (Blink-182 and Steve Winwood), gives it a big stadium rock feel, but no amount of overblown sonic effects can hide the fact that most of the songs just simply aren’t very inspiring or memorable.
‘Surrender’ is run-of-the-mill AOR, with hackneyed lyrics – “I wanna make you feel safe”, “You are mine forever,” and “I wanna die beside you” – a plodding U2 bassline, melancholy keyboards and an epic, but not in a good way, guitar solo that sounds like it was found under The Edge’s beanie hat. It’s derivative, would-be arena rock, as is ‘Time To Go,’ with its talk of how “church bells are ringing”, and “children are singing”, and yet more U2 bluster, with a bit of (whisper it) Coldplay thrown in.
The cringey ode to hedonism that is ‘Hi Rite Now’ sees its narrator waking up on the kitchen floor after a White Lightning and smoking bender, but he still wants more, proclaiming “I wanna get high right now and I don’t ever wanna come down” over Killers-like ‘80s synths and chiming R.E.M guitars. It sounds like the kind of formulaic US indie-rock that you’d hear pumping out on the soundtrack to some US teen movie or coming-of-age TV show.
On the pompous soft rock ballad, ‘Stick To You’ – a song about regret – Luke Andrew Edwards sings about being “the keeper of the sacred flame” and how “it went out along the way”, and in the chorus, he says “…. it’s true that you might’ve come unglued, but baby I’ll always stick to you,” – eurgh – shortly before a horrible, shrieking ‘80s hair rock guitar solo kicks in. There’s more noodling – as well as a completely unnecessary and ill-suited church organ intro – on the mediocre ‘rinky dink’ guitar pop of ‘Already Gone’, and the final song, ‘The Lucky One’ is weighed down with clichés about storms and taking shelter in someone’s arms.
‘Out of the Heart of Darkness’ could do with more darkness and more songs that sound like they were written from the heart.