As a reviewer, I get tons of music to listen to each week. It’s rare, however, that I get an album that shows a band so clearly in transition. That’s what we get with the new offering from 3 Pill Morning.
I first heard 3 Pill Morning last year on tour with Nonpoint and at a Festival show, both before actually hearing a recording of them. I was impressed with how polished they sounded live. I was let down a little later when the recording didn’t do the band’s live sound justice. In some respects, that also hold true for Black Tie Love Affair.
Let’s get right down to it. These guys have the deck stacked against them. They craft mid-tempo rock songs aimed right at a radio segment that is almost impossible to break into because it is being clogged with bands like Nickelback, Shinedown, Seether, My Darkest Days and the like. And, to be sure, you can hear some of that sound on Black Tie Love Affair, particularly on sings like “Rain”, which sounds much like a cross between Seether’s “Fake It” and Nickelback’s “Burn it to the Ground”. In fact, “We’re burning this place to the ground,” is an actual lyric in “Rain”.
This is the kind of thing that makes it hard for a younger band to breakthrough. Further into the album, however, we start to get elements that are unique to 3 Pill Morning and if they are going to break through, these will be the things that make it possible.
First, Black Tie Love Affair is loaded with songs that are built around big hooks with singable melodies. Jeff Stebbins has a solid voice and great pitch, so this is a no-brainer. Next, the band is moving away from the simple riffing that marked some of its earlier efforts and is beginning to incorporate riffs that combine single-note patterns for more variety. Prime examples are “I Want That For You” and “Drive By Lies,” which are also two of the best tracks on the album.
The final element that really separates 3 Pill Morning from the pack is the way they play with rhythm. They seamlessly shift into half-time grooves and, more notably, they are becoming adept at integrating the occasional 3/4 time signature, such as in the choruses of “So Good To leave You” and “Daddy’s Little Girl”. This change in and out of standard 4/4 time into other time signatures is a hallmark of more progressive rock bands (i.e., Dream Theater, Periphery, etc.) and alt bands known for their willingness to experiment (i.e., Soundgarden or System of a Down). It’s rare to hear it, however, in a band that is so commercially targeted. That they do it so well that the casual listener is not jarred by it is a testament to their progress as songwriters.
In the end, Black Tie Love Affair will sound very familiar even upon the first listen. Some songs are very similar to current rock radio fare. At times, however, another band starts to show its head. It’s that band—the band 3 Pill Morning is becoming—that is becoming that is much more fun to listen to and will be the one that eventually separates them from a very crowded commercial-rock field.