There’s a lot to like on Cursed, the debut full-length by Richmond, VA’s Talk Me Off. But as much as I enjoy the structures, the vocal tradeoff, and the political urgency, I just can’t get over the vocals on this record. They just feel flat and robotic at key moments, which is ironic for a band named Talk Me Off.
This is driving punk with pop structures. The structures themselves are predictable – it’s the drums and vocal tradeoffs that control the flow and force. It reminds me a little of The Measure [SA] in how the singers switch roles, or maybe it’s just that Ryan Cacophony sounds kind of like one of their singers. Musically it’s direct and blunt, just like the lyrics – which cover socio-political topics that are often from a feminist perspective. Songs like “Smile” and “Cut It Out” leave little to the imagination: a declaration, not a discussion. To namedrop another band with a different musical style, it reminds me a bit of the great This Is My Fist with its direct, no-bullshit lyricism. I feel a little weird naming those two bands in terms of musical style, though.
I guess Talk Me Off might fit smack in the middle between those two diverse groups. The song structures and crisp production give some pop elements, while the forceful rhythm section and defiant tone are hard-hitting. Ultimately this record feels a little conflicted in production and it doesn’t know where those two concepts meet. I like the ideas presented and I like the energy. But the flow suffers. Both vocalists, Holly Herzog and Cacophony, sing to the beat, keeping time instead of letting their emotions rip. Mentioned earlier for other reasons, both “Cut It Out” and “Smile” also highlight my issues with the vocals. The songs are first-person and personal, but the delivery feels distant.
Listening to this record repeatedly, I get the vibe that Talk Me Off gives an energetic live show and the production on Cursed fails to capture that. It’s a shame, because I like most of what I hear, but at times it feels stale and plotted when the direction of the music calls for seething, unbridled emotion.
6.8 / 10
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