London’s Alberta Cross has always used its U2-like fixation with Americana to its advantage, straddling the line between beer-swilling good ol’ boys like Kings of Leon and Union Jack-waving Brit rockers. If the band’s sophomore LP, Songs of Patience, proves anything, it’s that they have the musical chops to play either one of those roles with ease. But do we really need any more Followills or Gallaghers running around? When Alberta Cross is able to pull off this delicate balancing act (keyword: when), it results in songs that are more inventive and compelling than most of what passes for rock these days.
Opener “Magnolia” hears the band roll out of bed after a night of hard drinking with their sights set on a beautiful Southern sunrise. Singer/guitarist Petter Ericson Stakee’s voice sounds positively dewy as he howls about “dragging down the morning sun.” A hint of gospel enters the mix as the track soars to its climax, leaving behind a warm glow worthy of replays.
Stakee & Co. come packing heat on the album’s first half. You can almost feel the steam rising from “Crate of Gold”, which sounds ripped straight from a Neil Young & Crazy Horse jam session on a sweaty summer night circa 1970, while “Lay Down” takes a page from the OK Computer handbook with its anthemic guitar solo and Thom Yorkian sense of grandeur. The twist is Alberta Cross’ signature touch of twang that gives a fresh take on otherwise well-worn territory.
Unfortunately, the magic doesn’t always last. “Wasteland” hopelessly falls off the Brit-pop deep end, sounding like a bad Richard Ashcroft B-side. “Money for the Weekend (Pocket Full of Shame)” is danceable enough, but in the larger context of the album, it feels about as out of place as a London hipster in a small-town Texas honky-tonk. It may have been better suited for the Madden ’12 soundtrack, where it originally premiered last year.
Thankfully, these minor transgressions are easy to forgive and ultimately overlook. Alberta Cross sticks to its Atlantic Ocean-spanning guns on Songs of Patience, and more often than not, it hits the target dead on.
Essential tracks: “Magnolia”