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Dawn Escapes - Falling Up (2005)

A couple of years ago, pop-metal juggernaut Linkin Park teamed up with legendary emcee Jay-Z to produce an intriguing album orchestrated by the folks at MTV. Elements of existing songs from both artists were mashed together, marking what was perhaps the most legitimate and exciting fusion of real rap with real rock and roll since Run DMC and Aerosmith dropped their seminal track "Walk This Way."

What will strike you as you listen to Dawn Escapes, the sophomore offering from Tooth and Nail/BEC's promising young group Falling Up, is that what you hear is essentially what would be produced if LP opted to blend the vocals of Deryck Whibley of pop-punk band Sum 41—or any of his soundalikes—instead of Jigga, the so-called "god emcee."

But with all respect reserved for the loveable bubblegummers in hard rock's most widely embraced band, a marriage of Chester et. al and any of the homogenized pop-punk pantheon wouldn't be half as good as what Falling Up produces. To match the quality of DE, you'd have to lock the LP folks in their mansions, unplug the satellite hookup and trash the Xbox—ground them, essentially, until they learn how to play their instruments better.

Then you'd have to chain them together and force them not to write thirteen songs that sound more or less like their first few hits, and poke them with cattle prods every time they contemplate the idea of putting out another remix album. Musically speaking Falling Up is already on that kind of level. They're not terribly original, but in their second album they've already surpassed the proficiency of the band whose influence pervades that album.

Linkin Park's presence is strongly felt on songs like "Flight," "Moonlit" and the beat box-infused "Cascades," though the former and latter also evoke the guitar work of Pillar's Where Do We Go From Here, as does "Searchlights," the opening track. The excellent piano work featured on songs like "Exhibition," "Contact" and "Into the Galaxy," however, adds a softer and (to these ears) less traceable dimension.

Each song on Dawn Escapes is apparently inspired by a scripture verse, though poetic ambiguity is a frequent problem, and one wonders at times how (if at all) the lyrics correlate to the Biblical verses cited. "Contact" eloquently and succinctly articulates the forgiveness of God, or perhaps the impermanence of worldly accomplishments (it's not entirely clear which). "Cascades" apparently draws on 1 Peter 2:24 ("He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed") yet the song's oft-repeated refrain says more about God's omnipresence and role as a source of knowledge as Christ's sacrifice. It may be that the ambiguity is intentional—an invitation to examine their lyrics more carefully than you would those on most albums. But it's equally possible that the verses cited just happened to crop up during devotional time on the day the songs were written.

All negativity aside, DE is a truly impressive effort, although its commercial bent may not appeal to those who prefer their music to be a little rougher around the edges. The glitz and polish of the glossy production work is initially quite captivating, though the novelty wears off in subsequent listens to certain songs. This is an album clearly intended to make T&N some serious cheddar, and will probably succeed. But none of that detracts from DE's obvious quality and tremendous maturity from a boyish looking collective that has taken what others have done previously and advanced the genre to a new level.