Innocence can be a positive trait. It connotes ‘cute’, and is very difficult to criticise, at risk of hurting one’s feelings. For the same reason, innocence can be a negative trait. Naivety leaves people open to victimization, often unjustified and hyperbolic. It is this sort of difficult continuum that San Cisco’s ironically titled EP, Awkward, finds itself in.
Take the members of the band for a start: young, fresh-faced, and attractive. Smiles beam from their faces in promo shots. The aesthetic of a group, quite simply, doing all they can to look like they are having fun. On one hand, such vibrancy can find itself complimented. On the other, these exact traits leave the group vulnerable to the peckings of critical vultures. But it is, after all, the music that should be judged. It would be a pleasure to be able to say that the Australian teenagers do their best possible job of forging a sound for themselves, beating away the swarm of judgemental criticism ready to surround them. Unfortunately, Awkward lacks perhaps the most crucial ingredient to any release with day-glo fun at the core of its manifesto: it isn’t really that much fun.
Lead single, Awkward, is perhaps as much as an exception to this as possible, but it still rides a fine line between catchy and annoying. Lyrically, the song is dire, yet its tales of the trials and tribulations of a technology driven teen-relationship culture are somewhat conventional in contemporary pop, so this can be forgiven to an extent. The track itself is catchy, and most importantly, cute, the juxtaposition and eventual coming-together of male and female vocals in a ‘da da da’ chorus reminiscent of Metronomy.
The rest of the EP is less forgiveable. ‘Rocket Ship’ boasts a similar innocence to the title track, but in aiming for a combination of cutesy verses and dreamy, euphoric chorus, ultimately stumbles over its own poorly tied shoelaces. ‘Lover’ is a marked improvement, opting for a purer rock approach. The chorus of the song is accompanied by sunny-synths, and the ‘I’d really like to get to know you’ vocals remind the listener of the sort of fun present on Frankie & the Heartstrings and The Drums’ debut releases.
A cover of the cult-favourite Arctic Monkeys song, 505, is certainly an awkward one to experience. The faux-Yorkshire vocals are cringe worthy, and unfortunately, scream ‘karaoke’. It feels out of place, forced, and is a low-point of the EP.
To the band’s credit, Reckless manages to restore some dignity after this insultingly bad low, without being entirely inventive. Lyrics such as ‘Reckless is fun when you’re not the one that gets hurt’ finds the band exploring their more tender side, a side that hopefully hints at a future direction. It proves that innocence, when delivered successfully, is not always as awkward as it has to be.
It is difficult to criticise San Cisco. Not verbally, but morally. They are an up and coming, young band, enjoying themselves, and still with a long road still ahead of them. No doubt their sound will progress and evolve if they keep on writing, but right now, the fact stands that they just are not individual enough to stand out from the crowd. The bare bones of something promising are scattered around the EP, but their sound needs a lot of work if they are to forge an individual identity. Fortunately for San Cisco, time is most certainly on their side.