Last Nights Vice

The Power Cosmic EP
(self-released)

It's hard to know what vices the members of Last Nights Vice engage in (aside from dropping the apostrophe from their band name); the songs on the quintet's second release don't deal with late-night depravity or the sins of club kids. Instead, The Power Cosmic EP spends seven tracks running through variations of radio-friendly rock & roll that's too chipper for emo, too nice for hard rock and too brash for dance-rock. To place the band in terms of the St. Louis continuum, Last Nights Vice lacks the dour gravity of Blinded Black and mostly avoids the campy theatrics of Ludo. Singer Brandon House runs the show with a voice able to croon, growl and, regrettably, attempt to rap. His range can shift from desperate and breathy to cocksure and defiant in the same song, and this chameleon-like nature makes it hard to get a read on his real talents. Guitarists Joe Fitzsimmons and Jordan Phoenix swap between quick, funk-derived strokes and blues-based leads, though most songs use quick, punchy chords to punctuate the grooves coming from the rhythm section. But like its would-be peers in Fall Out Boy and, in particular, Hawthorne Heights, Last Nights Vice constructs its songs around shifting tempos and loud/quiet/loud sections that underpin the more emo-like vocal performances.

What is striking about the music is not its allegiance to any one style (though several modern-rock modes are represented) — it's the polished sound of the tracks. No note or emotion seems out of place on this EP, which can be a blessing or a curse depending on your disposition. Such perfectionism is technically impressive, but the sheen of these songs can be blinding at times — most of these tracks are coated with ambient, glossy synth sounds that bind the various sections together. Some harder-edged moments give the disc a bit more friction; "At Sunset She Strips" finds House pushing his vocals away from pretty preening and toward a throat-scraping scream, and the ragtag chorus that jumps in at the end of "All I" gives the EP its first spark of spontaneity. But most of these songs follow a paint-by-numbers approach that offers familiarity in place of ingenuity. You can't blame Last Nights Vice for shooting for Top 40 stardom, but it's a shame that the band doesn't take more chances to inject some verve and vitality into the formula.
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