Album Review: Abandon Kansas’ ‘Alligator’

After this weekend, Abandon Kansas will officially release their third full-length album titled, “Alligator.”

Overall, “Alligator” features a variety of sounds throughout and doesn’t stick to one formula. Lead singer Jeremy Spring wrote that the album name refers to an alligator that carries wounds from the past under its hard scales. Some of those wounds are broken open on this album.

The opener, “Mirror,” has a somewhat lulling pace with a swinging rhythm. It’s rather minimalistic in regards to instrumentation, and the simplicity grabs the listener’s attention quite easily. Lyrically, the song is about coming to terms with who we really are and where we’re really at. It mentions a disillusionment of societal goals and the “American Dream.” About halfway through the song, there are vocals by metal musician Shane Ochsner from Everything in Slow Motion. Yes, there are screams – which would be expected from Ochsner. He definitely adds an intense desperation to the song.

Track No. 2 is the title track, “Alligator.” The song builds nicely, not jumping right into the chorus too soon. It also picks up the pace from the previous song. The lyrics are about carrying pain from the past. It also struggles with the feeling that “better days” haven’t, and won’t, come around because of bitterness.

By this time, the listener is prepared for the rest of the album. “I Hope God Don’t Mind If We Talk Awhile…” is about being honest in the midst of seemingly overwhelming hypocrisy and pride. It opens with what I would call a “wavering synth,” which is a pretty interesting sound. The song is accompanied by almost constant guitar strumming and a rapid bass line.

The fourth song, “Baby Please,” echoes the sound of some older AK songs. It has a pop tinge. Also, it’s a pretty fun one. The words are about being all caught up with liking a girl who leaves you hanging. “Please, baby, please won’t you just say something? Say anything to me.” The song starts up with almost anthemic drums, which use quite a bit of toms. The bridge switches things up with teetering bass and guitar work, and it features some falsetto cooing by Spring.

“Anniversary” is a haunting heartbreak song about a break-up or divorce. The sadness bleeds slowly on this one. And it’s definitely an interesting change of pace at this point. Also, “Anniversary” is a duet with Brianna Gaither, an Oklahoma native, and her voice compliments Spring’s well. They trade off verses for a while before harmonizing together on the chorus when the drums kick in. The echo on the vocals is a noticeable effect. It lends to the emptiness feeling.

After the halfway mark, there’s “Get Clean.” It wrestles with people’s expectations vs. the reality of an individual’s state of being. And, beyond that, the desire to be purified. Spring sings, “I poison my blood, there’s dirt in my lungs. I want to get clean.” The issue of facing demands of the day while dealing with the dirtiness of guilt is an evident theme here. It also handles seeking out the meaning of identity in spite of that “dirt.” Musically, there’s a constant hammering of keys and some catchy electric guitar during choruses. There are also a few short parts that transport the listener to a saloon soundscape. The song closes with that soundscape, too.

“Shadows” is the seventh song, and it’s about being burnt out from chasing shadows. Those shadows could be interpreted as fantasies or anything that heavily occupies our desires. Spring sings about wanting truth instead of those shadows. A representative verse from this song is: “I’ve been dreaming long enough. I’m ready to wake up.” This one’s a rocker and has a good bass groove.

“What You Meant” slows the album’s pace way down. It’s an acoustic song addressed to Spring’s father. It goes though parts of their relationship and mentions how his dad has dealt with some hardships. The song is set to audio of traffic for background noise. It’s a pretty intimate track.

The ninth track, “You Oughta Know By Now,” addresses the general existence of people’s differing worldviews and reminds people of what really matters. That is, according to Spring, love and God. One verse goes, “Money might stop the bleeding, but it won’t heal the wound. Sex will give you a feeling, but it will get old, too. Aren’t you getting tired of you?” Basically, the song says that anything outside of love and God will fade. The electric guitar is impressive. It’s not too repetitive and it’s fun to listen to.

The last song is “One Foot In The Grave.” It’s about people’s habit of self-medicating through technology usage and how that negatively affects quality of living. The beginning of the song says, “There’s a screen in the car, on the wall and in my head. But if I can reach the cord, there’s no reason to leave my bed.” This song has a good point about how technology-dependent people have become. It has an almost dance-y vibe to it from the get-go. The electric guitar holds interest on this song, too. “One Foot In The Grave” is a nice cap on the album, and it keeps up the enthusiasm throughout its duration.

As a whole, “Alligator” is kind of a mixed bag. Lyrical themes cover a lot of ground, and musical styles shift somewhat from song to song.

It takes the listener to a few different places and gets you to think about the truth of the current state. A nice attribute is the prominence of electric guitar work, especially since a lot of mainstream music today leans toward synthetic pop instrumentation.

It’s pretty refreshing.