Oxford Collapse guitarist/vocalist Mike Pace chimes back in this summer now for his band Child Actors’ second full-length, Smooth Sailing. And really, the title itself, apropos of how their other projects have been called “Best Boy” and “Get Soft,” encapsulates the crux of the problem with this album already — obstinate poppiness, a refusal to explore darkness, tension or the confrontational.
Whether it’s opener “Everybody out of the Car” or second hitter “Senior Statesman,” each of these songs follows the same basic Beach-Boys chordal blueprint — major, bubble-gummy intervals flanking all of the songs’ turns and in general delivering that sort of everything-is-tragic, aw-shucks cliche we’ve come to know all too well from Mr. Pace, whether it’s come from the Child Actors’ chummy “Summer Lawns” or all those sloppy social white flags on Oxford Collapse’s final album Bits. Right down to Pace’s vocal style, even, we get this sort of vaudeville, mimicry effect, as if he almost knows that these tracks are kitschy, even if they do sometimes improve upon Bowie’s “Changes” with an alteration of chord scheme or some snare drum explosion.
“Blaster” chimes in likely copying Scott Weiland & the Wildabouts’ album title and dutifully plagiarizing “Get Lucky”-era Gaslight Anthem in terms of musical style — that sort of simplified faux-punk peppered with these grandma’s-apple-pie guitar grooves, all throughout. You’d be hard-pressed to find more conventional pop/rock than this in 2018 if you tried. As for the emotion itself of these songs, sure, they’re built on reasonably creative riffs or changes, hence getting by on that — like an outsider visiting a museum of exhibits who’s at least GOOD AT VIEWING said exhibits, or at least provides somewhat of his own perspective to them, as it were. Pace’s vocal style on “Escape the Noise” is affected and not effective — full of the sort of confidence that tells one that this is the right thing for them to be doing, whether or not they truly have a firm artistic vision in mind at all. Smooth Sailing’s general similarity to Best Boy and Get Soft in terms of the music’s MOOD would corroborate that to an extent, writing a song for Pace has become somewhat of an exercise, and less of a revelation.