Parachute’s ‘Overnight’: Album Review

Patrick Bowman | August 13, 2013 5:30 am
Without being a cynical prick, it’s difficult to really scrutinize Parachute‘s white bread pop ambitions. Like Maroon 5 in the ’00s, Matchbox 20 in the ’90s, and Hall & Oates in the ’80s, the Charlottesville, VA quartet revel in crafting that particular brand of innocuous, radio-oriented rock that sandwiches nicely in between tracks from, say, Rihanna, Katy Perry and Usher. (It’s telling that the band’s first big break involved soundtracking the replenished, unblemished faces of national Nivea skin care commercials.)

For their latest album, Overnight (out ), Parachute seemed willing to go all-in on aiming for pop dominance, shedding the neatly coiffed rocker posture of Room for Squares-era John Mayer they’d proffered on their first two releases. This time they assembled a crack team of established hit-makers like producer Oren Yoel and songwriters Ryan Tedder, Chris Destefano and Ashley Gorley to augment their sound, resulting in stadium-ready flourishes and production touches that recall both the Freddie Mercury-fueled grandeur of fun. and mainstream radio’s default-setting four-on-the-floor house music formula. It’s Parachute’s version, or more specifically, chief songwriter Anderson’s version, of experimentation (ironically, this album falls closer to the creative mean of pop music than any of their past releases).

Regardless, on Overnight, Parachute do manage to craft their most immediate and catchy work to date, trimming the limp ballads and middle-of-the-road numbers that made their past albums, for three to four song stretches, blend into the wallpaper.

Lead single “Can’t Help” (co-written by One Republic‘s Tedder) is a shiny Hammond organ-infused grab at Maroon 5’s dancey soul pop, but “Drive You Home” is an unabashed, romantic power anthem that, if Parachute are smart, should be targeted for a second or third single. The band’s rock components are there getting most of the handwork done, but the subtle touches of studio gloss (the oohhs in the bridge, for instance) and pulsing drum machine undercurrent propel what would otherwise be a nondescript track into the stratosphere.

Even the ballads, like the One Republic-cribbing “Hurricane” and the more traditionally sleepy “Higher” seem sharper thanks to more juiced-up production (the chipmunk-soul clip in the opening moments of the former, and the chilly electronic sheen and quiet/loud dynamic of the latter). Granted, these tracks aren’t lighting the world on fire by any measure, but they possess the effortless, effervescent charm of the best kind of fleeting pop music that listeners find themselves humming in their cars and at the gym.

Unfortunately, when Anderson tries too hard to craft the perfect pop song, or when he falls back on the blandest of his songwriting tendencies, Overnight kind of screeches to a halt. Anderson attempts to make a Big Step Forward with the spoken word-laden “Didn’t See It Coming” and falls short, landing like an awkward thud in the middle of the album with a beat that might as well be composed of spare parts from Bruno MarsUnorthodox Jukebox. The less said about the teen-y coma ballad “The Other Side” the better, and the lilting sleepiness of the acoustic guitar/piano duet “Disappear” is enough to really slow down Overnight‘s momentum before the aforementioned “Higher” provides the album with a proper coda.

In the end, Parachute have made the most interesting record of their career, even if that’s less the result of their maturing artistic vision and more the result of the tidal currents of pop music they’ve tapped into via collaborators. But I guess that really doesn’t matter. Overnight is good-looking, mindless fun that should find its place in the mainstream zeitgeist, with even those most cynical pricks being susceptible to Parachute’s vapid charm.

Best Song That’s Not The Single: “Waiting for the Call” is Parachute’s stab at U2/Peter Gabriel stadium-sized progressive pop and, if there’s any justice in the world, should be played during pro sporting events for at least the next six months.

Pops Like: Hall & Oates managed by Scooter Braun.

Idolator Score: 2.5/5

Patrick Bowman