Cosmos Music Group, 2012
U2 almost defined the idea of arena rock in the late '80s and early '90s, not only by delivering towering choruses and heartfelt lyrics, but also by hiring guys like Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois to man the boards, guys whose knack for taking songs to the rafters (and beyond) are unparalleled. Coldplay has built a massively successful career out of channeling that tendency, packing their arrangements with such a vast array of sounds and musical ideas that they have to play live shows to a backing track. And meanwhile, there's The Killers, who burst onto this scene last decade by taking the influence of '80s new-wave and synth pop and merging it with the skyscraping hooks and production values of Morning Glory-era Oasis (or, on Sam's Town, Born to Run-era Springsteen). Needless to say, bigger has proved better for more than a few acts in modern music, and one need look no further than the tour receipts or album sales for the aforementioned acts to see that a massive sound is more likely to lure in large audiences than, say, a lone troubadour with raw production and an acoustic guitar.
But arena-sized ambition can derail bands as well: Tom DeLonge gave up blink-182 for a solid decade, making three oversized records with his side project Angels and Airwaves, a band whose depth of musical ideas never even approached the scope of their production. A similar thing happens to Swedish rock act Molotov Jive on their third full-length, titled STORM, an almost absurdly overblow spectacle of a record that constantly tries to sound huge...whether or not it has the melodies to make that sound work. But that's not to say that Molotov Jive isn't a talented band, that STORM isn't a solid album, or even that the production is a complete blunder: indeed, when the sound works, the songs are undeniable, like with the towering should-have-been-opener "Run," which possesses a shout along chorus, a wall of guitars (a la The Dangerous Summer), and a flourish of synth melodies that recall both '80s bands (the record is evocative of Depeche Mode throughout) and the post-millenial new wave revival (yes, The Killers) to pleasing effect. But just as often, that spacious, echoing production is shackled to songs that don't go anywhere, compositions that meander and search for melodies or hooks ("Take Me In Your Arms") or stumble upon grating ones ("Manhattan").