Cinematic consists of two movies: one is guitar-based, a tad funky with a grungy, feedback-drenched backdrop; the other is piano-driven, introspective and soulful. There are enough examples of each to split this Australian band’s debut album into two strong EPs. However, neither approach is separated, as the tracks jump from one extreme to the next. Which is best? That depends on your mood. But it must be pointed out that vocalist Adam Friedman’s melodic singing lends itself more to the group’s midtempo side. On songs such as “Alone” and “How I Got Over You,” there’s an emotional depth to Cinematic’s music that is less keenly felt on their rockers, which are nevertheless punchy and toe-tappingly rhythmic. “How I Got Over You” is reminiscent of Ben Folds Five’s ballads like “Brick,” except that Friedman’s lyrics are more straightforward, devoid of sarcasm and irony. And it works, too, because songs shouldn’t have to be broken puzzles that need to be deciphered. In fact, I will argue that complex wordplay is often too self-conscious for its own good, keeping the listener at a distance.
In a way, you can place the brother and sister sounds of Cinematic into two eras: the ’70s and the ’90s. The mellow pop owes a substantial debt to Stevie Wonder, Joe Jackson and Billy Joel. The louder terrain is guided by Smashing Pumpkins and even Nirvana, although echoes of the ’70s still seep through, as on “Roger Over.” On “Roger Over,” a blast of amp fuzz fills the air as horns and synthesizers carry Friedman’s Pink Floyd-esque monotone delivery.
However, don’t call Cinematic schizophrenic. It’s not their fault they’re among the few modern-rock acts that have artistic range.