Pale Monsters are definitely blazing a trail. The Boston quartet’s five song debut Take What You Can Take elicited considerable praise and proved full of songs destined for standard status in the band’s set. Their ten song full length debut Are You Feeling Alive? Expands on the enormous promise exhibited by the EP and poises this grouping of Northeastern music veterans for a attention grabbing and, hopefully, profitable 2018 run. Led by singer/songwriter Chris Mulvey, the four piece is crafting an unique niche for themselves in the modern scene by bringing their own identity to bear on a mix of classic rock influences with some of the art rock aspects prevalent in David Bowie, Talking Heads, and Pere Ubu. Though many of the songs traffic with serious subjects and themes, there’s definitely an exultant edge to some of these cuts that audiences will undoubtedly seize on, particularly when packaged as part of a full length release like they are here.
There’s a near anthemic quality surrounding the album opener “All This Time We Wait” that Travis Richter’s enormous backbeat adds extra impetus to while Mike Ward’s synthesizer flourishes do every bit as much as the guitar work to give the song a high gloss sheen. Despite its attractive surface, there’s real depth with the song and Mulvey’s always engaged vocal presence further humanizes it. There’s a darker tone dominating the song “Pale Monsters” and the slashing guitars further charge its straight-ahead immediacy. The band definitely seizes on a ragged but right quality here, keeping things just loose enough for the song to breathe and never seem too studied, while Mulvey serves up a vocal with slightly different aims than we heard on the album opener. He cuts loose, however, a number of times to inject a bit more excitement into an already bracing song. Pale Monsters unleashes a raucous rave up to begin “Everybody (Take What You Can Take)” before settling into a more conventional guitar-driven groove, but the tempo remains aggressive throughout the song’s entirety.
A decidedly more elegiac quality pervades “The Dead” and Mulvey’s vocal has right-next-to-your-ear intimacy. His vocal is suffused with heartache and longing alike while showing off facets to his range that the earlier cuts never adequately reveal. Synthesizers are more prominent in the song’s second half and it transitions into a much more texturally elaborate, practically theatrical bit of pop songwriting retaining substance. “Buzzed Out” is a near prototypical post-punk raver with a freshness born from simplicity that sets it apart from the album’s earlier songs while still sounding part and parcel of the same package. “I Don’t Really Wanna Care No More” is part challenging, part atmospherically tinged guitar work out, and idiosyncratic. There’s no question that Pale Monsters imitate no one and, instead, emerge with a fully fleshed out style on Are You Feeling Alive? that should carry them to widespread prominence and one gets the distinct feeling they’ve scarcely scratched the surface of what they can do.