Sometimes a single element that a band introduces to their music makes a huge difference. It may be one small thing, such as distinct, soaring vocals (such as cleans in Jamie’s Elsewhere or Sleeping With Sirens) or perhaps polished bass (such as The Arusha Accord). Maybe they mish-mash genres well (deathcore with clean-singing in Betraying the Martyrs) or use programming and synths to make their music more appealing (The Word Alive and Woe, Is Me). German band Madison Affair doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, or have one single strong point, but they still managed to blend the most popular elements in modern post-hardcore to craft a breakdown-laden album.
Teenage Time is their debut full-length, and it feature a plethora of different elements that are popular in “scene” music. Alternating between coarse screams and auto-tuned cleans melded together with drop-tuned breakdowns, Madison Affair have also adopted the trend of infusing their tunes with synth leads and electronic beats that wouldn’t be out of place at a rave in Ibiza. Except, you know, without all the drugs. Even some rapping moments are present in two or three tracks, alongside some dubstep breakdowns that are chock-full of the now phenomenally popular bass wobbles. WOB WOB WOB.
Reworking these basic elements, Madison Affair’s redeeming feature is their musicianship and songwriting. While lyrics are sometimes choppy (which is forgivable due to the band being composed of three Germans and two Russians), the band certainly knows how to utilize the dual vocal approach effectively. The auto-tuned cleans aren’t painstaking once you get used to them; while the band obviously utilizes the pitch correction tool (made popular mostly by Cher and T-Pain) they don’t get to the point where they sound like Abandon All Ships or Attack Attack!. Screams courtesy of Florian Michealis emulate the enunciation of ex-In Fear and Faith screamer Cody Anderson; similar in the way that phrasing is quite clear and easy to understand.
Madison Affair’s Teenage Time opens with the extremely predictable throw-away “Intro” that leads up into “New Waves.” At first listen, nothing is ear-grabbing – Madison Affair sound, to quote my fellow reviewer Hobbes, “like Attack Attack! learned two tech-riffs.” Then you’re hit by a dubstep breakdown, and while I’m the first to admit I dislike dusbtep, it was unexpected. Next track, “Promised,” features a nifty solo. And the album’s title track, “Teenage Time” delivers a crushing and bouncy breakdown in the first half. Each song has an element that sets it apart from the other, and the sung (auto-tuned, but sung) clean vocals are what paste this myriad of elements together like a patchwork quilt. All choruses are infectious and catchy.
However, not all is bright and shiny in the town of Teenage Time. The album, being a debut, is expected to have flaws, and indeed it is riddled with them. Production is quite shoddy – nothing that interferes with listening to the album, but sometimes the instrumentals seem muddled as a whole, and the cleans are way too loud. It’s also generic, which is a given. The band insists on rapping, which is disastrous: the rapping on “Now Leave” is brief and interesting, giving it segues into a synth breakdown. But the closing track “The Hardest Storm” is a amalgam of auto-tuned cleans and rapping, and the final product is disastrous. Besides these flaws, my only major qualm is the addition of three instrumental tracks – “Intro,” “Rainbow” and “You’ll Better Keep Your Eyes Wide Open” were unnecessary. The total length of these tracks is over five minutes, leaving Madison Affair’s debut a tiny bit over the thirty-minute mark.
But, for a debut album from a young band, Teenage Time should be proud to be where it’s at; in fact it’s one of this reviewer’s guilty pleasures. In the end it’s fun music, not unlike Skip the Foreplay. There’s plenty of room for growth for this German-Russian quartet, and if they manage to hone their skills their next album may be a genericore giant.