by Cory Stark
Rating: 5 / 10
You Wouldn’t Believe What Privilege Costs is a conflicting album. I can’t say that I don’t like it, but I can’t say that I really like it either. Regardless, I’ll offer a disclaimer. I have never listened to Civilian before. The band formed in 2011, and released an EP the same year. They also released a full album in 2012. I have listened to neither of these, so I will be judging this record solely upon its own merits as a standalone collection of songs. Unfortunately, I would prefer it if the album didn’t include eight of them.
In listening to You Wouldn’t Believe What Privilege Costs, I only enjoyed four songs. “Cut & Run” is a solid love song with some decent upbeat instrumentals and lyrics that aren’t half bad. “Skulls” is pretty good; it embraces more of an indie sound which fits nicely with the frontman’s voice. “Michael” leaves a bit to be desired sonically, but the lyrical content is interestingly provocative (it’s a tragic story about a male prostitute), and “Judas,” the closing track, has some really nice instrumentals. I just don’t like the lyrics.
I do truly want to like Civilian and their album, but I’m irked that of the songs I like, two of them are lacking in some really important departments. There are great moments in the album where it feels like Civilian’s true potential is about to break through, but these moments seldom reach the point that I want them to. To me, the band shares a similar sound with The Killers and Andrew McMahon, two pop-friendly alternative artists who I adore, and because of this, I feel even more let down.
Lyrically, I don’t feel like the band ever does anything that stands out. In fact, most of the tracks have lyrics that get boring by the end of the song. Another off-putting thing about the writing is that sometimes it seems like the band is trying to make a deep statement about something, and other times they’re making appeals to lovers in standard pop-music fashion. Ultimately, this strange inconsistency kind of makes the album feel needlessly pretentious.
To anyone reading this, I apologize. I lied earlier in my review. After sitting down and writing this, I have realized that I don’t like this album. I simply can’t look past all of the shortcomings that are so close to making the record a solid alt-pop/indie-pop album. To Civilian, I’m sorry. You Wouldn’t Believe What Privilege Costs missed the mark. Keep working at it. I promise I’ll give your next release the same chance I gave this one.
RIYL: The Killers, Andrew McMahon
Favorite Tracks: 1, 5, 8, 12