Aware is the label that actually prides itself on having unleashed acts like Matchbox Twenty, Train, Hootie and the Blowfish and Five For Fighting on an unsuspecting and partially deaf public. Kudos to them for bringing struggling dead-end artists to a wider audience without ripping out their souls in the process, but one can always discuss actual merit and, in this case, the quality of the artists. You see, they all suck.
Well no, they don’t. This album collect the “best of” from Aware’s annual compilation CDs, which are dedicated to (mainly) unfamiliar acts that may or may not deserve a break. And while those bands all sound strangely similar to each other, in a Counting Crows sort of way, there are a few glimpses of individual talent on here. Better Than Ezra’s star shines brightly in a crowd of Verve Pipes and Vertical Horizons, and John Mayer’s “Stupid Mouth” isn’t all that bad after all. Five For Fighting have come up with something almost tolerable with “Easy Tonight” and I even have a soft spot for Shawn Mullins’ annoying “Lullaby.” There, I’ve said it.
But that’s it, really. The artists on here — all undoubtedly talented people, in a “we’ve been around for a long time, sonny” kind of way — all occupy the same corner in commercial rock, and their songs are all going to grate on your nerves after not too many a listen. It’s blue-collar enough to warrant some bonus points, but you’ll start to wonder if it’s actually a capitalist ploy to eventually undermine any support for the working class.
On another note, there are nine Aware comps out so far, but most tracks on here are taken from the earliest of the lot. That may indicate that Aware has come to some sort of musical standstill lately and should consider moving beyond their regular narrow paths of commercial rock. If they’re willing to broaden their musical horizons and refocus their search for new talents to include other fields of music, Aware could have something really exciting going.
Aware Records: http://www.awarerecords.com