When Australian indie rockers Atlas Genius first began burning up the blogosphere with their single “Trojans” and their subsequent EP Through the Glass, expectations were set pretty high for the band. That sense expectation can be either a blessing or a curse—it can be a chance to break through and show the world what you’ve got, or it can be a standard that is difficult to measure up to. Unfortunately, the band’s debut full-length record When It Was Now leans more toward the latter than the former.
Let’s be clear: this isn’t a bad album, not by any stretch. It’s just that it’s a record that bundles all the tunes the band had previously released along with a few new ones, which draws instant comparisons—and it becomes clear very quickly that their earlier buzz-generating songs are the best ones on the record.
In other words, it signifies an early peak for a band that showed a lot of promise early on. And that’s a little scary.
Indeed, in a track list of eleven tunes, the band’s original breakout hit “Trojans” (which first spread like wildfire via the Internet and landed the band a performance on Jimmy Kimmel) is the album’s strongest track. Only problem is, “Trojans” is already two years old, and people who buy When It Was Now looking for more songs at that level are likely to be disappointed. While a couple of tunes make a strong showing (like the electro-pop opener “Electric” and the reflective “Through the Glass”), nothing really carries the album more than the material we’re already familiar with. The result here is that the album presents itself more like an obligatory effort—something to put out there just because people are expecting it—rather than an actual forward evolution. There’s really nothing new here—just a few extra (and sometimes forgettable songs) to fill out the track list and inflate a pretty decent EP into a “just alright” debut record.
Has Atlas Genius already given us their best? Is this all we can expect? I don’t think so. This is a band loaded with potential and talent, and they certainly have more to give. But it’s hard to see When It Was Now as much more than an opportunity lost when they haven’t given us more substance. This record won’t be a career-killer, but it unfortunately won’t add much to their momentum, either.