Album Review: The Survival Code – Broken Strings


One thing I often like about up-and-comer bands is that some of them answer the “what if” questions none of us thought to ask. In this case, imagine what an upbeat modern rock band a la Queens of the Stone Age if they sounded like they were primarily influenced by Tool, with a smattering of punk attitude on the side to keep things fresh. This, ladies and gents, is the Survival Code, a new name to my ears, but not to the UK touring circuit, where they’ve been taking numbers now for close to five years. I’m always quick to be impressed by a band that manages to put the most conventional elements of rock to their own compelling advantage.

Broken Strings is the latest EP from this group, and though the modern rock slant almost feels as if it was plucked somewhere from the early 2000s, when this very contemporary-sounding anthem¬† rock was all the rage. That said, nothing about the Survival Code sounds anachronistic; they clearly know exactly what they want to do with their sound regardless of the trends and they’re pursuing it with the sort of attitude that makes this kind of music worthwhile to begin with. There’s a deceptive lot going on here to update from the original grunge template. For instance, looking at the song “One”, it’s got all the trademarks of a rock charts single, but listening to the way the drums and guitar occasionally go off on their own proves that the Survival Code has musicianship well beyond the current scope of their songs.

Considering frontman Gary McGuinness is a scholar of classical guitar outside of the Survival Code, I’m not surprised that the band would find subtle ways of strutting their stuff. Gary’s vocals, on the other hand, I’m a little less sure about. On the one hand, he’s got all the proper range and attitude becoming of a rock frontman, but some of his vocalizations (see: the chorus of “Lost Cause”) wear thin despite their hook factor, and some of his inflections come out of nowhere sounding like he’s suddenly in a post-hardcore band from the American midwest. The production also doesn’t quite “leap out” the way I’d expect from modern rock chart-toppers, but of course given the band’s present and relative obscurity, that can be understood and accepted without a second thought. The fact alone that the Survival Code can be mentioned in the context of bigger names probably says everything by itself. Short and sweet; it would be easy to recommend this to any fans of commercially-oriented modern rock.


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