The Same, Year After Year
Pete Francis wrote some memorable songs during his Dispatch days. The sleepy ballad “Two Coins” was great poetry, and songs co-written with his bandmates were indie hits with acoustic folk-jam dread-head wannabes. Unfortunately Francis has not shown the same depth in his solo career. While most songwriters grow over time, he has brought listeners the same simplistic music and callow lyrics year after year.
Iron Sea and the Cavalry is no different, with Francis placing unsavory emphasis on rhyming and hiding the best musical riffs deep in the background. “Carnival” is a stellar example of this, opening with a high quality but buried bass line that gives way to the lyrics “watch the pink begin to think / four submarines / exploding my bloodstream” and the nonsensical chorus that asks “how is your animal?/ how’s your engine?”
The album opens with “Johnny Ocho’s Lullaby,” but would do better to start with one of the few tracks on the album that aren’t so offensive to the ears. The southern-tinged “Armies of Angels” and the title track, the album’s best song thanks to its varied composition and more developed lyrics, would put a better initial spin on Iron Sea than “Johnny Ocho’s” annoyingly repetitive unfavorable melody.
The folkish “Case of Bad Love” and catchy rock song “Shooting Star and the Ambulance” also draws listeners in, but these tracks don’t make up for lyrics like “August flowers and magic powers / dreaming from your silver tower” from “Let It Go,” or Francis’s tendency to write choruses that mostly consist of repeating a song’s title several times. There’s bad catchy and good catchy, and, unfortunately for Pete Francis, Iron Sea and the Cavalry only does the first one well.