When dealing with hopelessly generic songwriters, it’s difficult to figure out who sounds the most like whom. Raman Kia, better known as Buddahead, straddles the border between the Howie Day/Matt Nathanson troubled-nice-guy-songwriter camp and the Hoobastank/Our Lady Peace wuss-rock camp. The question is, do either of these groups need another similar-sounding artist? On Crossing the Invisible Line, Buddahead answers that question resoundingly: “No.”
His major-label debut is an eleven-song exercise in self-indulgence, a mediocre songwriter with a decent backing band attempting to glorify his own work to the deepest extent possible. Kia slips into his studio-tweaked Thom Yorke-wannabe falsetto so frequently that its effect wears off before the album’s halfway mark. He futilely tries to disguise tired chord progressions behind alternate voicings at every possible turn. And the string arrangements — as much the indulgence of arranger David Campbell (Beck’s dad and Sea Change arranger) as Kia himself — are often so ridiculously excessive that even the Flaming Lips would call them overkill.
Even his lyrics, which Kia touts as his strong point, offer no redemption. I could try to find a creative way to berate Kia’s shortcomings as a wordsmith, but lyrics like “You’re the one I call/ When I fall/ When I bleed/ You’re the one I need” speak for themselves. His “poetry” consists of repeated nonsensicalities and desperate rhymes printed upon Laundromat-centered imagery, though the photos are exceedingly deceptive. If, as the tough-guy-by-the-dryers motif would suggest, Kia were actually airing his dirty laundry through his songs, they might actually be interesting. Instead, what’s present are cliched, misspelled, light metaphors like, “I can’t bare the darkness when you’re gone.”
The only salvation of Crossing the Invisible Line is the crack production from Don Gilmore, who has jetted bands like Linkin Park and Lit to fame through a generic — albeit well-polished — sound. Of course, he’s also responsible for a slew of used-bin all-stars like Diffuser. Needless to say, a good-sounding record is a good-sounding record. Despite Raman Kia’s dismally shallow writing, Crossing the Invisible Line is so basic and so shiny that it actually has the potential to reach a massive audience. Which, from the sounds of things, is exactly what Buddahead wants.