The eponymous release from Serial Thrillers is one of those cool albums that steers clear of being pretentious, avoids cheesy clichés and is a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. It’s pop enough without being Nine Days or Vertical Horizon, and it rocks enough without having to reach for the stars with Metallica-like time changes or the sort of angry, kooky vocals found on a KoRn record. In fact, the album shares more than a few similarities with Audiovent’s Dirty Sexy Knights in Paris, and it’s that sound that makes this record a winner.
A sizable chunk of the album is devoted to the study of various aspects of relationships. “Unattractive” rails against the person who won’t give singer Paul Ortolano the time of day because he doesn’t look like a Greek god, while “Miss Black & White” makes it clear that Ortolano is tired of playing games with a woman who always plays whichever side of the fence that will get him in trouble. No matter what he is saying, Ortolano rarely seems accusatory on any of these songs, managing to sound impartial as he makes the various statements that come to mind.
Serial Thrillers do their share of rocking and rolling on this album (the chunky licks on album closer “Rex” are especially tasty), but part of what this duo does best is inject variety into their songs. Produced by Anthony J. Resta—the man behind works from artists ranging from Duran Duran to Collective Soul—Serial Thrillers isn’t the same thing over and over, which is a tempting tactic to use when you’re trying to get people to notice you. Instead of giving in to this pressure, the album goes from power-pop (“Unattractive”) to rock (“The Cycle”), from ballads (“Forgive”) to groove rock (“Defied”). This wise choice is emblematic of this entire album experience.
Serial Thrillers has its share of layers and memorable songs. Lyrical snippets like the following from “Defied” are found throughout the record: “Is it a sin to be what you are or deny it? Never try it?/ Put a line between us/ I knew that we couldn’t last this way.”
Ortolano and drummer Stephen Clements have made a catchy album that takes the best parts of a few musical genres and combines them into one great time. Their clever name is a more than apt one as there are plenty of thrills to be had on this record.