Hitting Their Stride| Posted October 23, 2014
If you want to talk about a band that has run the creative gauntlet, look no further than Manic Drive. Having formerly dabbled in aggressive rock tunes back in their early days as teens in Toronto, Canada, the band made a radical transition with their breakout album Blue, which shifted away from their rock roots and into more progressive pop territory.
Several years and bridge album Epic later, the band, comprised of brothers Shawn and Michael Cavallo and their lifelong friend Anthony Moreino, are now a full fledged pop act. The group channels the sounds of some of Top 40's latest and greatest, while still maintaining their signature quirky originality.
With their latest release VIP, Manic Drive firmly establishes themselves with an arsenal of ear candy, ready to disprove even the biggest pop cynic.
"Electric" sets the tone for the entire project and will leave you hooked after just one listen. A guest spot by Thousand Foot Krutch lead vocalist Trevor McNevan takes this bubbly dance track to the next level. You'll be itching to hit the repeat button on this one, with lyrics declaring "You make me come to life, it's like a lighting strike, body and soul collide / Like a shock to my heart, Your love is electric."
Trevor isn't the only big name you'll see featured here. Manwell from the newly relaunched Group 1 Crew also lends his rhythmic chops to the thick and funky title track "VIP."
While Manic Drive shines on more upbeat songs, some of which fall along the borderline of EDM style, they also know how to slow it down and convey a message in a way that's soft yet appealing. "King Of Mercy" and "Song To Sing" do this brilliantly in a way that never feels like it's deviating from the flow of the rest of the album.
"Good News" boasts a melody that would make Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine jealous. It could easily rival the mainstream competition musically, and lyrically, the song stays true to their constant, fun-loving message of Jesus and His saving power: "All of the people gather around, they stare like I'm a street preacher out of my mind / And I'm going all out, I tend to over-commit / But with news this good, you'll want to hear it again."
Listeners have had two sided issues with Manic Drive. When performing in the rock circuit, they were accused of being too moody and vague, while when the pop shift took place, some instantly complained about how watered down and shallow the lyrics became. With VIP, I think they've finally hit that perfect balance of lyrics that are strong enough to get the message across (this is, dare I say, their most spiritually overt effort yet), while still remaining fun enough to keep you interested without having to think too much about it.
While their last effort Epic was a melodically stronger project, these guys are definitely on the right track when it comes to their signature sound, and with VIP they nail it better as far as production goes than ever before. With all the elements coming together to create a tight whole, I don't see it being very long before Manic Drive drifts out of their best kept secret status and becomes a CCM mainstay.
Song To Download Now:
"Electric" (Get it on iTunes here.)
Fun Time, If Transient| Posted November 12, 2014
Canadian pop-rock group Manic Drive (brothers Shawn and Michael Cavallo and friend Anthony Moreino) have released their fifth album, VIP. When the record begins, pulsing opening track “Electric” makes it clear the guys have hearts intent on reaching the younger generation. Heavy beats, programmed synth, and guest rap spots from popular Christian colleagues (Trevor McNevan of Thousand Foot Krutch and Manwell of Group 1 Crew) help to keep the sound current, accessible, and danceable. This is a project designed to be a fun, feel-good listening experience. But don’t forget: this is Christian Music, so there is also an underlying message designed to point to the strength and hope found in God’s love.
Some tracks deliver this message more successfully than others. Though their lyrics can fall into cliches, when the guys keep their approach simple, they fare better. For example, upbeat “Street Lights” likens God’s illumination of one’s path during times of doubt to street lights brightening a darkened avenue. Similarly, “Good News” is an energetic, straight ahead number about brimming over with an excitement that can’t be contained — sharing the “good news” of the gospel with the world. Eager to speak a language that is relevant and modern, Manic Drive draws upon worldly imagery and analogies. And sometimes this backfires. When in “VIP,” the group makes membership in the Kingdom of God analogous to the extravagances and luxuries of life as a VIP in the clubbing and music scene, they undercut their message by undervaluing God’s love for us. Interestingly enough, they use similar images to different and better effect with “I Hide You Seek” which shows Heaven and Hollywood are indeed vastly distant realms.
When Manic Drive slows it down with numbers like “King of Mercy” and “Song to Sing,” they sing with an unquestionable earnestness. And these worship driven numbers are as easy to listen to as the more rhythmically aggressive tracks. Indeed, from top to bottom, the album is sonically pleasing and polished with strong production values. However, when one looks past the shiny exterior, the lyrics often leave something to be desired. And, ultimately, it’s this need for deeper, more challenging, more creative songwriting that keeps VIP from being an album that I would return to for repeated listens.
Verdict: 3 of 5 Stars. High Production Value + Lackluster Lyrics = Fun Time (While It Lasts).
With their latest effort, VIP, Manic Drive has written and recorded a set of songs that should give listeners a musically good time. Lyrically, though, there isn’t quite enough depth to inspire repeated listens.