Ace Enders, best known for his work with former Drive-Thru Records anchor The Early November, returns to the table with When I Hit the Ground, (technically) his debut full-length as Ace Enders and a Million Different People. He released an 8-song record, The Secret Wars, for free in mid-2008. The new album is a mix of his old work with a few new tricks brought to the table, some more successfully than others. Unfortunately, this highly-anticipated album, filled with earnest pop rock music, fails in both technical execution and lasting value.
Enders kicks off When I Hit the Ground with "Reintroduction," a song which burns a promising start by devolving into a distorted mess. It doesn't get much better by transitioning into a harder rocking track, "Take the Money and Run," in which the whole song sounds rather flat as Enders' vocals do not remotely mesh well with the music behind them. Through the first half of the album, there end up a few more misses ("The Only Thing I Have" and the title track) than hits. However, "New Guitar" is a cleanly executed step forward from Enders' old acoustic side project, I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody's Business, and the previously-released "Reaction" remains an excellent addition to any Ace Enders record. The song is upbeat and charming, coupling a bouncy hook with strong harmonies to lead into another pop ditty, "Sweeter Light." If you're not into whoa-oh's, you'll definitely want to pass it by, but there's something oddly entrancing about the track.
"SOS" takes a mid-tempo stab at anybody who's still listening and seems to do fairly well. The instrumentation on "Where Do We Go from Here" is some of the strongest on the album, with captivating guitar riffs and one of the most musically adventurous arrangements on When I Hit the Ground. You'd think that would make for a great song, right? Wrong. Ace's vocals are forced and uninteresting, and certainly not fitting a track that yearns to do as much as this one does. "Emergency" too has a brush with greatness but it ends up so down-tempo that the listener will have to fight tears of boredom before the singer is done with the verses. "Bring Back Love," is a retread from The Secret Wars, given a facelift and it becomes apparent shortly into the song that those who enjoyed the stripped pop song previously will declare it a tragically botched makeover. The song, now a rocker, suffers from vocals delivered so slowly that it destroys every chance the song had of being a catchy hit, which is quite the running theme.
When I Hit the Ground suffers from plenty of problems, including generic vocal delivery, poor song arrangement, and simply the lack of many memorable songs. Taking a broadly upbeat musical approach, Enders' album seems intent on tiptoeing around the point, never quite thrilling listeners, and offering plenty more disappointing tracks than redeeming ones. What should have been Ace Enders' triumphant return to the hearts of pop-rock fans ends up with listeners slogging through the mud hoping to find something to remember him by. When Enders hits the ground, he sure does it hard. There's nothing left to bury him with.
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