After bursting onto the scene with a spectacular debut album, the Guardians of the Galaxy are back with their sophomore record: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. As with most successful musical acts, the odds are stacked against them. History is rife with sophomore slumps and one hit wonders.
From the offset, things couldn’t have gone better for the Guardians of the Galaxy. After a nice, mood setting intro, the next track on the new album is absolute dynamite. If it doesn’t get the blood pulsing through your body, you are a cadaver. Everything I loved from their debut album is back and on full display with unfiltered, absolute confidence. My already heightened expectations burst through the ceiling.
While never achieving the greatness showcased in opening numbers, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 does maintain its penchant for toe-tapping, uptempo radio hits designed to keep the crowds clapping along. At least for a while.
If an album’s going to dip into a lull, it’s usually around track three or four. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is no exception. I honestly expected it. Sure, I’d love to have a seamless album filled with non-stop perfection. But I live in reality. Perfection is almost impossible to achieve. To demand nonstop perfection is to live in nonstop disappointment.
Case in point: the Guardians of the Galaxy take a ton of inspiration from classics like Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) by Looking Glass. The aforementioned is even referred to as maybe the best song ever composed by humans. That may not be completely inaccurate. Brandy is a near perfect song. But have you ever listed to Looking Glass’ other songs? Oof.
Luckily Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn’t experience such steep variance as Looking Glass. There are dips. There are lulls. There is imperfection. But the drop in quality is gradual and brief, often followed by energetic anthems that act as an adrenaline injection. And none of the imperfections take away from the perfect moments, like Brandy.
The moment Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 starts to lose steam is the moment the band splits up to explore new sounds. Each member’s unique voice goes missing for some span of time, while others are given the spotlight. Each new song rotates to a new voice, often an unexpected duet. A risk doesn’t always pay off.
Drax is often paired with newcomer Mantis. Their songs are pleasant quick hitters. They don’t carry much emotional weight, but their voices blend together surprisingly well and create some of the more memorable moments on the album.
Another unique pairing is Yondu and Rocket. Rocket’s voice is usually paired with Groot and the gang, so removing Rocket took some getting used to and the benefits were not immediately clear. I was almost ready to call the experiment a failure. But then Yondu and Rocket finally started to harmonize. The result of these two gruff, yet heartfelt voices blending creates one of the more emotionally satisfying tracks in the album.
Unfortunately Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 tries to cram in some love songs. I understand there’s a massive demographic that music labels are wanting to hit. But Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 should have stayed away. The duets between Drax and Mantis are pleasant, but Star-Lord and Gamora’s tracks grind the album to a halt.
Star-Lord and Gamora spent the first album at odds with one another. Star-Lord is a famous womanizer so his interest in Gamora makes some sense. But we have never heard one romantic lyric leave Gamora’s lips. Her no nonsense lyrics address bigger issues, not junior high love.
In fact, Gamora’s complete disinterest results in Star-Lord’s pushiness veering into harassment. Yet all of a sudden they have a unspeakable romantic bond? Okay… Maybe. Obviously they are spending a lot of time together on the tour bus, but whatever spark exists between them has been kept hidden from the public eye.
We didn’t need these songs of unrequited love. Gamora is far more interesting when she sings of her tumultuous relationship with Nebula. Star-Lord is far more interesting when he’s exploring his relationships with with Ego and Yondu. These other tracks are better written, better produced and offer the listener a more fulfilling experience than a Star-Lord/Gamora love song. So if you’re crunched for time, or are paying by the track on iTunes, skip it.
Luckily all the duets and solo tracks come to and end and the Guardians of the Galaxy regroup at the end of the album. This is where the band stomps the overdrive pedal. Gone are the quiet, reflective ballads. In comes the rock and roll. In come the noise. here is the rebellious attitude we heard in the intro.
And while I’ve heard better rock anthems in my days, the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 finale delivers solid, gut busting beats with driving bass lines and squealing guitar hooks. This is the noise you and I both paid to hear. After spending the middle of the album exploring new territories, I felt a wave of relief wash over me as the group gets back to their roots.
The finale of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is substantially louder than their debut effort. Maybe the strumming gets a bit too chunky. The drums get a bit too sloppy. The riffs repeat a little bit too long. But I respect its ‘go for broke’ mentality.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a great second album, when taken into account that most second albums suck. The Guardian’s new effort is familiar enough to where I know it’s the same group, but they are willing to explore new ideas that weren’t present the first go around.
From the uptempo, radio friendly opening track to the soulful final ballad, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is stuffed with hit singles, but also some album filler. None of the in-between tracks are terrible, but when compared to the top 40 smash hits, they aren’t great either. Most of the songs are exist solely to get you to the good song.
Now if only we could do something about their penchant for secret tracks. One secret track? Sure. Two? Maybe. Five?! Good God. Some of us old men need to pee. You can’t expect us to wait around, hoping the band will come back for an encore.