Anyone with even a basic knowledge of the history of Pennsylvanian pop-punk legends The Starting Line will know that Ken Vasoli was at the forefront at the bands evolution.
No-one could claim that TSL ever tried to stand still with their music, constantly expanding, changing and growing. That’s not to say they were no false steps, but no-one is perfect, not even the person responsible for three of the best pop-punk albums of this century.
That preamble was not entirely pointless, and if Vasoli’s history has taught us anything, it is to be expectant of change. His new, and primary, project, Person L, is no different in this sense. After the release of debut Person L album, Initial, Vasoli has practically reinvented himself again for this second album. And while it should be no surprise that Vasoli has pushed the musical boundaries, and broken free of genre constraints, he has still created an album that will still come as a surprise to even his most fervent of fans.
Person L is unlike anything Vasoli has crafted before, and will be unlike a lot of what fans of Vasoli’s work will have listened to before. Citing influences in classic rock and soul, The Positives, mixes things up so much that pinning your hat on a definite sound is almost impossible. Goodness Gracious is driven by a dirty guitar riff conjuring both a dirty blues and garage rock theme at the same time, while being punctuated by a horn section and rampant drumming that again shift the influences to almost everywhere on the musical spectrum. This about as eclectic album you can hope to listen to shy of picking up a compilation, and I have heard compilations with less musical diversity than the 12 tracks on The Positives.
The more observant of readers will have noticed that I haven’t actually said if the album is good yet. Well I’ve been trying to delay that for a reason; I don’t actually know. I have listened to this album multiple times, and will continue to, but it lacks something. Perhaps it is too diverse, that seems a strange criticism, but like the people who vote Conservative say, “change is dangerous”.
This is an exhausting listen. When people talk of a musical journey this ranks as a metaphorically long one, possibly requiring multiple stops, and the destination is pretty unclear. It seems highly cynical to say, but I am a misanthropic, cynical bastard so I’ll say it anyway, but there is an undercurrent to this album. It almost feels like Vasoli is trying to prove he is more than just that guy from The Starting Line, and that he is able to write more complex, musically experimental songs than “Leaving” or “Island”. I could be wrong, and I probably am, but to me this may explain the over-complexity of the album.
That’s not to say the album lacks clear stand-out tracks, in fact it would be easy to pick singles here. Good Days is a particularly strong track musically and lyrically, and the aforementioned Goodness Gracious is sure to be a fan favourite with the rallying cry of: “I’ve been hearing rumours of a revolution”.
I guess I have to say that objectively this is a good album, and Vasoli is clearly a brilliant song-writer and talented musician, working with other talented musicians (I just want to make it clear that I know Person L isn’t purely Vasoli). But subjectively this album does lack something, most likely coherence and a little bit of something else that I can’t quite get my finger on. It is definitely a grower of an album though and I will continue to spin it now and then, perhaps when I have matured like Vasoli seems to have, I will learn to enjoy it more.