Despite admitting not being cut out for a solo career after disbanding the L.A power pop trio The Tories, that is exactly where vocalist and songwriter Steve Bertrand has ended up; albeit via the band Avion whose output to date has been a debut album through Columbia records.
The Tories became something of a pop cult phenomena, idolised by fellow musicians but somewhat ignored by the mainstream despite releasing two outstanding albums.
Avion’s debut followed closely in the footsteps of The Tories-it even featured bit parts for former band mates JJ Farris and James Dupree-but it again failed to make sufficient waves as a vehicle for Bertrands slick contemporary pop.
‘Pain Is A Megaphone’ unsurprisingly continues the theme; featuring Avion producer Stuart Brawley on keyboards as well as Avion drummer Jamie Wollam. With these connections, allied to Bertrand’s easily distinguishable voice and undoubted song-writing skills, it never strays too far from comfortable familiarity. If there is a difference, then overall ‘Pain Is a Megaphone’ lacks the edge of the Avion album and has a more laid back ambience. Opener ‘The Last Mile Is the Longest’ is sonic smoothness personified, lacking the killer punch required to get an album off the ground. Bertrand’s songs are inoffensive enough with admirable hooks and uplifting melody but nothing really stands out. The superfluous nature of the album as a body of work means that distinguishing one song from another becomes difficult. The one paced approach means that the mellow pop of ‘Letterbox’ merges with the songs either side of it (‘Falling Forward’ and ‘Glorious Collision’). Followers of Avion and The Tories will find plenty to enjoy on ‘Pain Is a Megaphone’ but may find that it lacks the necessary edge to elevate it above the other albums from his back catalogue.