Atlas Genius – When It Was Now
by Tom Doherty (Journalism), published February 27th 2013
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
You’ve heard this one before. No, I’m not referring to the hundred times you listened to “Trojans,” the track that single-handedly brought on Atlas Genius’ big break. What I am talking about is the story of how this album and, consequently, the band itself will be received and labeled. Atlas Genius released the catchy “Trojans” to massive success almost two full years ago. But that is exactly the problem: it has been two years. Between that song and the release of their debut album When It Was Now, Atlas Genius only produced an EP entitled Through the Glass, featuring only two songs not titled “Trojans.”
“Trojans” was the catalyst for the sudden rise of Atlas Genius, and also the culprit for the band’s (hopefully temporary) undoing. It inspired online music publication Clixie to boldly declare that Atlas Genius “are more than sure to impress in the near future.” It is, after all, an excellent song with an ideal balance of danceable pop and indie rock-style guitar riffs. Atlas Genius would impress if they could again find that optimal combination. If they could.
The eleven tracks on When It Was Now occasionally come close, most notably in opening track “Electric” and in “Symptoms,” the closer. “Electric” gets the album off to an electronic, Passion Pit-like start. It is heavier on the synths and lighter on guitar than the rest of the LP. “Symptoms” is originally from Through the Glass and is the final track of the full-length album. It has a great sound, but suffers from a problem persistent through the entirety of the album – Atlas Genius’ lyrics are simple in the worst way. On “Symptoms,” vocalist Keith Jeffery sings, “Water, cool these bones down. You’re so hot.” Even on “Trojans,” Jeffery sings in clichés like “Change the locks, change the scenes / Change it all but can’t change what we’ve been.”
“Through the Glass” (the track, not the EP) is the only attempt to deviate from the formula that made “Trojans” popular. Synths eschewed, Atlas Genius takes on a more acoustic sound and allows Jeffery’s voice to fill the empty space. His vocals are at their best on this track, when he finally gets a chance to show some range in pitch. When he sings, “And we’re dressed up like humans / Like we know who we are,” Atlas Genius finally shows some lyrical creativity from a band that has displayed plenty of talent musically.
When It Was Now is a decent record. The problem is the effect it has on Atlas Genius’ image. After “Trojans” and the following EP, they were a band to watch out for, a band with an exciting future. Now, after When It Was Now, Atlas Genius has become another band in the middle of the pack – one that leaves the question of whether they are worth following unanswered.
Recommended Tracks: Trojans, Through the Glass, Symptoms