The Active Set: Let The Games Begin
Words: Nathan Standlee
The Active Set are a four-piece indie-punk outfit from Los Angeles, California. Based on the press shots I’ve seen of the band (each member frozen in ridiculously cheesy mid-air jumps), which is all I have to go on at this point, I’m slightly wary of what musical garbage might possibly be dumped in my ears for the next three minutes. Obviously I never learned anything from the age old warning, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’.
'Let the Games Begin' is actually a quite quaffable effort from The Active Set. It certainly won’t be breaking any boundaries or starting any new crazes, but it’s decent, solid, songwriting. Starting with a riff that instantly conjures up thoughts of early Editors/Bloc Party material, it quickly breaks down into a saucy little verse with a nice bass groove over some tactfully strummed chords. Vocalist Matthew Stolarz's comforting inflection emerges from the depths, like Willy Mason if he had slightly more energy, and breathes all sorts of new life into the song.
Where things take a turn for the worse is in the lyrical content; almost cringeworthy at times, with lines like: ‘Evening came / I thought of a plan and tried it out / I dug up a purpose that everybody shared / I tried to refine it, polish it up, make a good presentation / I took a breath and shouted’. Suddenly I feel like I’m at a Christian rock festival and should feel guilty for holding hands with girls. Not cool.
Regardless, the song does have some great moments. The bridge leading up to the not-quite-reaching-the-dizzying-heights-it-should chorus is actually a chorus in itself. The hook is so super catchy that when the real chorus kicks in it’s a bit of a let down. Rough, raw guitars, driving drums, and some well-placed hand-claps keep things moving along nicely though, and every section of the track is perfectly listenable.
But that’s pretty much where it ends. It’s not bad by any means, but it’s not setting my world alight either. If it came on the radio in the car, I’d happily sit and listen for the full three minutes over the other nonsense that’s currently on the airwaves. Does it make me want to rush and buy the album though? No, I’m afraid not.