Heavy on the heartbreak, self-reflection and extra noir, Michael Cullen’s new album, “Love Transmitter” is the type of album best played in a Greenwich Village dive bar or on the Walkman of the goth chick from “The Breakfast Club.”
Like Ally Sheedy herself, it’s either hit or miss. Even though a few songs showcase the lyrical ability and vocal talent Cullen has, most if the time he sounds like a venting 20-something, as repetitive tracks and his sometimes over the top voice are too cumbersome for your ears to carry.
Even considering the often mellow retrospectives most of the tracks are, Cullen’s storytelling prowess isn’t as consistent as it should be.
The sound, for the most part, is the type fans of bands the likes of Toad the Wet Sprocket and Crowded House will dig. There’s even a hint of The Bravery in his sound. Solid guitar work sets the scene and nearly every track features smooth drum work, courtesy of legend TIm Powles. Even the lyrics are smooth- “Tidal Waves,” at times sounds like poetry with the mention of showers and African flowers.
But where those aforementioned bands had one of a kind frontmen, Cullen’s voice, although it grows on you and has a deep resonance, isn’t as catchy as it needs to be. His range is at times is impressive, but he never feels like he’s exerting himself. In “All Used Up,” Cullen isn’t able to connect with the lyrics and as a result it sounds like he’s simply toying around. In “Hey Sister,” Cullen does what he does for a good portion of the album, this half cool speak, half singing, that ultimately grows tiresome.
On the album’s title track however, Cullen sings, like holding notes, real singing- and puts his hand inside his chest and pulls something out. Between the solid riff and Cullen’s lyrics, this is more along the lines of what this guy is capable of.
There’s nothing wrong with moody tunes, especially when they’re emotional enough for the listener to feel every thorn in the singer’s heart. Cullen is only able to succeed at this endeavor once or twice on the album, but when he does, the payoff is worth it. The rest of the time, it just feels like he’s trying to be cool.
In the end, Cullen doesn’t have to try. He just needs a producer that can help him harness what’s already there.