The recent success of acts like Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers goes to show that getting your start on a children’s cable channel is a sure way to build a huge following of screaming tweens and teens (and more than a few college aged girls) and rake in millions of dollars of their parents’ money. Salteens may have taken this idea a little too far. They just finished up a tour of Canada with the live version of the Nick Jr. show “Yo Gabba Gabba.” Hey, toddlers are an untapped music market, right?
Fortunately for adult listeners, the material on Grey Eyes, the latest offering from the Vancouver-based group, is a bit more mature than “Be Nice to Animals” and “All My Friends Are Different,” the hits on their September E.P. entitled Kid Songs, composed of music from the show. But it’s not hard to hear the musical qualities that make The Salteens appealing to the younger demographic on this album. The ten piece ensemble, fronted by Scott Walker, performs pop songs that are above all fun and catchy.
The leadoff track, “Last Train from London,” begins with deep drums and a low piano part that create the sound effect of a train chugging out of the station. Once it gets going, the horn section and flutes dominate the melody. The orchestral arrangement is a constant throughout the album: Salteens’ regular touring lineup includes six brass pieces, an upright bass, and no guitars. On “Everything They Know About Us,” the horns are strongly reminiscent of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Walker, the lead vocalist, sings with his soft and harmless voice on this upbeat number, and in the chorus recalls the melody from the backup vocals on “Hello Goodbye.”
Carrie Tenant, who sings backup on many of the tracks, takes a turn singing lead on “Savings and Loans,” on which her light, feminine voice provides an interesting counterpoint to the song’s prominent tuba part. “Go On” provides the best example of expertly crafted harmony between Tennant and Walker. In the album’s promotional material, The Salteens acknowledge their debt to “sophisticated ‘60s European and American pop constructionists,” an influence that is unmistakable in the crisp production and clear formalism of each composition. Walker’s lyrics throughout the 10-track arrangement are sunny and hopeful, to match the tone of the music.
Salteens have assembled a very consistent collection of relentlessly upbeat songs on Grey Eyes. While the instrumentation is unique and creative, the overall album lacks diversity and complexity of tone and emotion. But when the time and the mood are right for bright, happy, catchy pop music, the Salteens can make you feel like a kid again.
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