Across the Board – Sonic Boom
Across the Board’s new album Sonic Boom is a conceptual effort featuring eight songs meant to explore the journey required for pop/rock stardom and its effects on its seekers. It relies largely on the band’s original songwriting, courtesy of front-woman Jacqueline Auguste, but this is a band that recognizes the occasional value of incorporating covers and outside material into their artistic identity. They’ve logged a lot of live performances since their 2013 formation and Sonic Boom is definitely the most assured effort yet from the Canadian based act. They are definitely a rock band and, at certain points, rage with unqualified aggression, but there’s a lot melodic going on in what they do that gives them a deeper feel than many of their peers and contemporaries. Sonic Boom may seem relatively brief compared to the typical 12-14 song bloated efforts we are all too accustomed to seeing since the dawn of the compact disc age, but their focus is welcome and they never risk anything like self indulgence with this release.
Sonic Boom starts off with its title song and it feels like a substantive effort from its initial spin alone. The guitars are obviously orchestral in nature – many of the album’s eight cuts incorporate guitar in a big way, but there aren’t a lot of lead guitar solos and definitely none stretching out on some out of place virtuoso trip. “It Shouldn’t Be This Hard” is one of those moments when the six string steps out more than previous songs but, as mentioned earlier, the band keeps a tight rein on such moments and, as a result, they improve the songs rather than miring them in masturbatory excess. The lean, economical focus they bring to the performances on Sonic Boom reaches an apex of sorts with the track “No Curtain Call” and the light scattering of ambient sound helps further dramatize the piece. Auguste really throws herself into this performance, but there’s nothing unrestrained about this and she accomplishes much by applying just the right amount of force to her performance.
They cover U2 with the song “Kite” and this track from the Irish legends’ album All That You Can’t Leave Behind becomes Across the Board’s own thanks to their willingness to never be too reverential. This wont for refashioning covers as something closer to their own musical vision pays off in a big way here. “Nothing to Say” is one of the album’s most emphatic rock numbers and has another of the great choruses that the band seems to toss off with confident ease. Sonic Boom comes to an end with the song “Two Step” and it’s another gripping shot of pop rock guitar that brings the release to a thrilling final curtain. Across the Board are really hitting on all cylinders with Sonic Boom and its clear the momentum is building for them to make a big splash on the global music scene. This eight song album is a long, entertaining step into their future.