Reviewed by Stephen Krock
What would it sound like if Nicholas Sparks, sap author extraordinaire, herded up all his college bros and formed a garage band? Well, it’d sound a lot like Empire, the debut album of GRMLN. And that would suit GRMLN, the project of Japan-born, California-raised Yoodoo Park, just fine. Much of Empire itself was indeed inspired by marathoning The Notebook and A Walk To Remember. As apt an assessment as this may be, it is by no means a criticism. While many could argue the cinematic merits of the Sparks’ oeuvre, no one can say that their soundtracks aren’t what one might call… A Rawk to Remember. Eh?! Anyway. From Snow Patrol’s epic “Set the Fire to the Third Bar” latched onto the dreadful Dear John and Switchfoot’s “Only Hope” permanently aligned to the film that I refuse to mention a third time, these films are a fine source of musical inspiration.
One can easily hear the heartwarming, nostalgically tinny garage bound sound of GRMLN backing the emotional upheaval of young celluloid love. It is a very summer album, bringing to mind hopeful and naïve sunrises and tearful sunsets. “Teenage Rhythm,” “Blue Lagoon,” and “Hand Pistol” are thumb tapping tunes reminiscent of early Strokes, with a healthy dose of J-rock infused. A lot like The Pillows meets Rooney. Often I cite the majority of an album’s tracks sounding the same as a major flaw, but here the songs are enjoyable enough that it’s forgivable. Mostly. “Cheer Up” is a delightful stand out as a gosh-and-golly-gee 50s boy group number. The closing track, “Dear Fear,” also holds up as Empire‘s most stripped down offering. It’s simple, raw, and guttural.
Park’s voice is perfect for what he sets out to achieve and, while I may find his taste in film somewhat dubious, it’s clear he has an ear for music. And a respectable career ahead of him.