CD Review of Thriving Ivory by Thriving Ivory
Recommended if you like
Axl Rose, Collective Soul, Live
Wind-up Records
Thriving Ivory: Thriving Ivory

Reviewed by Jason Thompson


odern rock. Where did it go, and what the hell is it, anyway? Back in the day, we had a thing called “alternative rock,” a label which is still being thrown around despite that “genre” going the way of the dodo years ago. It pretty much morphed into this whole “modern rock” tag, a label so generic that it can basically encompass anything that isn’t being played on an oldies station these days (i.e., anything from the ‘90s on back). What it really means, though, is that you’re in a band making some music that might sound nifty on the radio for as long as your current single lasts, and then you move over and let the next guy have a turn. You see, “modern rock” has basically become a revolving door where those who are lucky enough to make it to the top have to watch their asses because The Jonas Brothers or Miley Cyrus are right behind them, ready to show ‘em what real modern hitmaking is all about.

So here is Thriving Ivory with their self-titled debut, all ready to go. On the front of the disc is plastered a sticker letting listeners know that this group is one of VH1’s “You Oughta Know Artists on the Rise.” So far, so good. The backing of a Viacom network never hurts, even though VH1 plays about as much music as MTV, relegating most of its video-spinning to the early morning hours and weekends. Still, they saw fit to label Thriving Ivory as an up-and-comer. Yeah, but who isn’t these days? So press play and see what it’s all about. The first song, “Runaway,” is all drama, with lead singer Clayton Stroope sounding like Axl Rose had Axl ever chosen to do the strictly pop thing and never seriously rock out. Thriving Ivory could be compared to 10 or 20 bands from the ‘90s that had one or two hits with a big, aching sound dripping with passion and were then an afterthought, relegated to “Hey, remember that band?” conversations.

“Angels on the Moon” seems destined to be one of those hits. All pompous and frilly acoustic verses exploding into big, cinematic sub-verses and choruses with clean-sounding guitars, by-the-numbers drum patterns, and corny lyrics (“If I can’t see the sun, maybe I should go / Don’t wake me ‘cause I’m dreaming of angels on the moon”). It’s the sort of thing that will strike a chord in a 20-year-old’s heart, but then it’s tailor made to do just that, and therein lies the problem with bands like Thriving Ivory. You can put this album on and instantly hear that there won’t be anything long-lasting here. It’s depressing in a way, and it’s a large picture of the current state of the music industry. Who cares who stays around? Just throw bands against the wall and pray something sticks.

In fact, to even call this stuff “rock” is doing the whole genre a disservice. This stuff is more like musical mood pieces than anything genuinely rocking. The ridiculously-titled “Long Hallway with a Broken Light” proves this with its over-processed sound – guitars and drums squished together so squeaky clean that the final product hardly resembles “rock,” let alone something to bob your head to. “You hold me like a bag of bones,” whines Stroope as the band does its best imitation of nothing in the background. Yet you know someone out there is going to dig this, because that’s just how the universe is, my friend.

If bands like Thriving Ivory were half as compelling as all the money dumped into them by the labels to make these discs, there might possibly be some hope. But until that day, “modern rock” will still best be served by those bands actually making the rock, regardless of which adjective comes before it. These pre-programmed, slickly-produced poster children must go elsewhere. Remember when rock was fun and exciting? Hopefully you do, because Thriving Ivory and bands of its ilk don’t have a clue. This is simply background music for listening to background music.

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