No Surprises - Single (2019)
Review By Dan Fister
June 5, 2020
Vocal Brand dug through its record collection for No Surprises, a Radiohead staple from over twenty years ago. While this Swedish group crafts a poignant rendition, technical inconsistencies and middling creative decisions do little to help this run-of-the-mill cover.
The issues appear from the beginning. With an arrangement this exposed, the pitches need to lock into their harmonies exactly. Too often the chord takes a second to settle. I understand the aesthetic of a minimally-produced track, but sacrificing a little of that to adjust the pitches slightly in post-production would make a world of difference.
In addition, singing the same barebones transcription of the guitar arpeggio for over a minute causes this already repetitive song to feel monotonous. There are some lovely subtle background effects that bring a bit of depth and atmosphere; unfortunately, they appear only during the first verse and chorus.
For most of the song, the track lacks percussiveness and has an almost sleepy quality, which is not a great vibe for a rock tune. Some of this can be attributed to the muted vp, so the hits sound flat and distant. Lead singer Caroline Berg's choice of a simple tone does amplify the song's melancholic character. But rather than propelling her forward with rhythmic drive, the other singers and the vp accompany her with a too-mellow timbre. This is finally disrupted during the more edgy bridge section, and the track then builds a bit into a more robust final chorus. Nevertheless, the last third of the song is too late to capture the audience's attention.
To cover such an iconic and layered song is difficult to say the least. Instead of rising to the occasion, Vocal Brand delivers an unfinished track in both the production and artistic sense.