sym·pho·ny sol·dier /ˈsimfənē ˈsōljər/
1. a person engaged in the service of fighting for music they believe in
It hasn’t been an easy journey for pop trio The Cab, a band that originally began as a quintet before signing to Fueled By Ramen in mid-2007. Their debut album, Whisper War, saw moderate success when it was touted to be the next big thing in the industry. However, as years passed, member departures further crippled the public’s view on the group. With the lack of new material to show due to various label disputes, some wondered if a second album would even see the light of day.
Perhaps all of these adversities were just a blessing in disguise. Although members were lost, the driving force behind The Cab still remained. Being relinquished from the clutches of their record label allowed them to finally create the album they wanted to create – and music at this point couldn’t be more grateful.
It’s conspicuous that The Cab has done their fair share of fighting over the years. Whether they’ve lost the battle of achieving top ascendancy with Whisper War, or experienced line-up calamity in the past, one thing is assured: The Cab has won the war with their sophomore album, Symphony Soldier, and they came out guns blazing.
Symphony Soldier is a masterpiece. As Whisper War took more of a general “Justin Timberlake with guitars” approach, Symphony Soldier’s influences range from Michael Jackson, to Maroon 5, to Bruno Mars, and the like, but all cohesively intertwined that allows the record to hold a sound of its own. The production duties done by John Feldmann are remarkable, making it easily his best production outing to date. What the production showcases best is front man Alex DeLeon’s vocals. They were clearly the focal point behind the first record, but it’s completely turned up a notch here, bestowing a vocal spectacle that is bound to make DeLeon a household name. Not to discount the musicianship, The Cab enlists former guitarist Ian Crawford to lend his dulcet prowess, essentially picking up where he left off on Whisper War while Alex Marshall’s piano efforts are downright beautiful.
Album opener “Angel with a Shotgun” illustrates that, despite their absence, The Cab has only gotten better than ever. The song inherently exhibits everything that Whisper Warhad to offer, yet swirls it into a unique display that accurately represents Symphony Soldier’s true ambition. As the track begins with an inviting yet apprehensive choir, it builds up with elation through its verse and pre-chorus. Reaching the apex as DeLeon croons “Don’t you know you’re everything I have? / And I want to live, not just survive tonight,” it cements itself as one of the most haunting hooks of the year, but The Cab are only beginning to load their ammunition.
The disappointing aspect found in 2008’s Whisper War took place not within the album itself, but rather its post-affect on the general public. Songs like “Bounce” and “One of THOSE Nights” appeared to be sure-fire hits, but sadly never saw the recognition they deserved. The Cab naturally execute potential chart-topping smashes this time around as evident in Symphony Soldier’s first single, “Bad.” Giving off a Michael Jackson-esque swagger, “Bad” is hell-bent on making an impact on pop radio across the country, if only to avenge the lack of promotion that was given to its predecessors. While the most infectious tracks on the record are the ones more upbeat in nature, the Bruno Mars co-penned ballad, “Endlessly,” will undoubtedly become the reason The Cab reaches super stardom. Its monstrous, almost surreal-like chorus mixed with captivating keys will not only be a staple for crestfallen hearts everywhere, but also become a frontrunner for a “Best Pop Duo Performance” Grammy nomination as well.
Despite the fact that Symphony Soldier’s bedroom eyes lie mostly in its enduring hooks and vox, it’s impossible to ignore the instrumentation. The Cab’s former guitarist, Ian Crawford, left the group in 2008 due to creative differences, though he’s back to offer an irreplaceable quality within Symphony Soldier’s musicianship. Most distinguishably found in the rocker “Another Me” and Maroon 5-tinged “Animal,” Crawford slays the solos. In addition, Alex Marshall manning the keyboards on the aforementioned “Endlessly” and theatrical “Lovesick Fool” make for an uplifting presentation that is unlike anything found in modern day pop albums.
Other notables include the stand-outs “Her Love is My Religion” and “La La.” “Her Love is My Religion” contains ethereal melodies with a chorus that will send shivers down your spine as DeLeon belts out his best vocal showing on the album. “La La” has hooks even the forefathers of pop would be jealous of. Symphony Soldier embodies cuts that are rather unconventional to what this style is used to seeing, as “Intoxicated” encompasses “big band” qualities while the melodic “Grow Up and Be Kids” offers an eccentric take, both musically and lyrically, on the usual “growing old” song, though making it one of the best in its kind in the process. Closer “Living Louder” sums up Symphony Soldier as a whole, marking the end to an album where each song fits into the bigger picture – a record that will stand the test of time when compared to some of most influential groups that the genre has ever seen.
There is a preconceived notion that pop can’t confine the same essence as other species of sounds that tend to be more accepted by the masses. Given the genre’s recent track record of legitimacy (or lack there-of), its been hard to argue against that. However, Symphony Soldier is as solitary of a record as they come, not only in pop, but music as a whole. It’s now proven that a pop album of this caliber can be made while seemingly erasing any type of doubt that was carried along with it. Every lyric, every chord, every vocal melody and every ounce of emotion is on a different spectrum of pop music, and redefines everything that it previously stood for.
The Cab may have reigned victorious on the front line of career dismay, but their onslaught is far from over. Being a symphony soldier is more than just standing up for the music you love – it’s a statement. It’s about overcoming the obstacles that keep you from showing that music off to the world. It’s about proving wrong the ones who doubted or gave up on you – to prove to everyone that you are perfect, and nothing is going to stand in the way of that. Symphony Soldier has flawlessly accomplished this, and while we all fight our own personal battles, nothing stands in the way of The Cab’s guerrilla warfare on the homefront of music as we know it.