Happy Thanksgiving to all of McRoth’s Residence’s American readers! I hope you’re all enjoying the holidays. Drowningn00b is back this week with a review of TRAX’s new album, Blind. Read the full review below!
For reasons only known to SM Entertainment’s rock band TRAX, the band moved away from their nu-metal beginnings to a pop rock sound when No Min Woo, better known as Rose, left the group in 2006. The surviving members Kim Jay and Kim Jung Mo have done an able job keeping the band alive since Rose’s leave, but they haven’t really reached a pinnacle of success yet. (Ironically, the only success they have seen was with Jay’s participation with his younger co-horts in the label side project, SM The Ballad.) Since that split, their pop-rock sound has been blasé, never hitting the right notes with their audience that the likes of CN Blue and FT Island routinely enjoy. For their new album, ‘Blind’, TRAX returns to that pop sound, but adding a melodic thread that tries to follow the success of SM The Ballad. Does it succeed?
As an entire package, ‘Blind’ establishes itself squarely into pop-rock troupes of mini-guitar solos, pop hooks, and a band that exists to back-up Jay. Songs like “Like A Dream” and “Good News” are alright sing-a-longs with a nice tempo to tap along to, but for some reason they don’t click. On “Like A Dream”, Jay resorts to falsetto to reach the high notes, which is fine if done well, but he doesn’t. The guy can sing, so to have to hear that was disappointing. “Like A Dream” does have a nice piano accompaniment I liked, but other than that, it fell flat.
‘Blind’ as an album does well with its three resident ballads, “Blind”, “Goodbye to Romance” and “Silent River”. Like his solo track for SM The Ballad (“Another Day”), Jay is allowed to sing to his heart’s content, and the effect is wonderful to listen to. On their lead single, Jay is mournful and heartfelt, while Jung Mo and the band add the right atmosphere for the type of rock ballad “Blind” is going for. The guitar solo was well done, though a bit short. For “Goodbye”, Jung Mo plays the hell out of that guitar, whose solo outdoes Jay’s vocal climax in terms of pay off. And my favorite out of the set, “Silent River”, is a wonderfully calm, acoustic ballad. The best part is the dueling guitars playing in the background. Rarely do you hear something like that, but when you hear it as well as it’s done here, it only means one thing: you have one hell of a musician.
This brings me to a point of contention I have with SM regarding TRAX, mainly which the band is not Jay. As amazing a vocalist as he can be, Jay would not be a name anyone recognized if it wasn’t for Jung Mo. With much more talented comrades like Jonghyun from SHINee and Kyuhyun from Super Junior, Jay would have sunk into obscurity. SM needs to put Jung Mo more on the forefront than his presence on ‘Blind’. TRAX is a duo at its core and what little recognition it gets is based on that conceit, not just Jay. To be able to pull off the dueling guitars on “Silent River”, and the sublime electro-rock goodness of M&D’s “Close Your Mouth” only speaks to the gem SM has on its hands in Jung Mo.
As for ‘Blind’ the album, it has amazing elements, but they don’t work together enough to stand out. The guitar playing is crazy, the vocals are great, but ‘Blind’ the record doesn’t offer enough of them. “Blind”, the single, is a sign that TRAX can go somewhere, being melodic and playing directly to TRAX’s strengths as a rock group. There needs to be more of this style of style and production for TRAX to stand out among the CNBlues and FT Islands of the k-pop idol scene.
TRAX, regardless of their approach to rock, has huge potential. SM Entertainment has amazing talent in Jay and Jung Mo, but they aren’t used to their fullest. Sure, an argument can be made that Korean rock music isn’t successful as a whole, but with the label recognition and their talent, TRAX can be huge. “Blind” shows the duo can do pop-rock, well even, if only they would put the label’s weight behind them. As an album, ‘Blind’ is a solid release, showcasing their various takes on the genre. But with a lifespan over 7 years old, descriptors like “potential” and “solid” should not be used for established k-pop artists.
Hi! My name is Xtian, and I’m a total pop music whore. I’m from NYC and can be seen dancing in the streets with headphones permanently glued to my ears. I may not have had a musical background, but I’m a lover of all things music, so I’m excited to be bringing a new voice to the McRoth’s funhouse. Y’all can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or better yet, follow me on twitter, where I do most of my social media-ing, @drowningn00b. See y’all lataz