Once again, this site gets the better of me and I’m sat staring at a new Shinedown album wondering where the time went since the last one. It was indeed the tail end of 2015 when they released Threat To Survival since which time they’ve done the usual tour rotation including a surprising / controversial (delete as appropriate) stint with the mighty Maiden.
Attention Attention is a concept album of sorts, a trip through the mental state of an unknown protagonist. Beginning in a dark place, the like of which many of us have experienced, it progresses through them facing their demons and eventually rising out the depths and back into daylight.
Past the short industrial intro track, the album proper blasts into life with familiar strained strings and belted drums before Brent Smith’s trademark vocals trample all in their path. “Devil” is heavier Shinedown-by-numbers, designed to get the head nodding with some more mellow sections but it’s the crushing chorus which remains stuck in the brain afterwards.
“Black Soul”‘s plinky-plunk, keyboard-driven intro is rather unusual, but it’s that “drop” when the Shinedown sound really comes to the fore. Another pounding number with catchy repeated vocals it’s perhaps just a little too poppy in places for some, but the rockier overtones make up for it.
It’s the title track that’s the first to really get the album going, though. The chorus is an absolute belter. Melodic yet with a great drumbeat to maintain the forward/back motion of the neck it’s probably the best track on the album. Followed by the almost-a-ballad-until-it-gets-going “Kill Your Conscience” and you have the best back-to-back pairing on Attention Attention. “Pyro” which follows adds to the blitzing run, a fast-paced adrenaline injection, and makes for a great trio of songs which together sum Shinedown’s musical range up.
Oh, but wait. We don’t have a dark ballad yet. Well, here’s “Monsters” to fill that gap and it does so with aplomb including a great guitar solo around the three minute mark before Smith’s vocals once again take the fore. Lyrically, this is probably one of the best tracks on here.
“Darkside” I found enjoyable but quirky with an odd, overly cheerful section around the middle which fits in with the song, but is still a little off-kilter. You can’t blame a band for experimenting, and they don’t push it too far, but it’s still a little too out of the park for me. We’re back in familiar territory with the lighter “Creatures” which flows beautifully once it gets going. After the brief rest, the noise is cranked again for “Evolve”.
“Get Up” is good, but I just get the feeling I’ve heard it before. It’s just a little too familiar… and demonstrates that you just can’t win as a band. I complain that “Darkside” is too different, and “Get Up” is too much the same! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad track, but it sounds a little too much like something Shinedown have put out in the past, just not as good. What they have done, and it’s quite clever, is to use “Get Up” as the backing music for the next song, “Special”. The two merge together as the latter finishes and we head into the second single, “The Human Radio”.
Rather funky in tone, again we have a familiar Shinedown number with a couple of twists such as the “robotic” vocals. The rousing, choral chorus is what sells it, though. The album comes to an end with the appropriately upbeat “Brilliant”, a song which could get away with being much slower but thankfully isn’t.
Once you wrap the concept around all this, the overall flow of the album makes so much sense, and you realise that there’s that bit more to appreciate. From a musical perspective, I still think Amaryllis takes some beating (though my wife’s more of a fan of Threat to Survival), but Attention Attention has something special about it. Taken as individual tracks, it’s lacking something, but put together it’s very much greater than the sum of its parts.
Attention Attention is out on May 4th
Header image by Jimmy Fontaine