If there is indeed honor in never giving up and "staying the course", as George Bushes I or II might say, Columbus's Stepford Five deserve a purple heart for their steadfast cling to a very tattered sound. After a couple EPs and what has now been three full-lengths, the band have scarcely altered their punchy emo/alterna-rock sound. They've been called "radio-ready" for more than four years now, but I've yet to hear them on my local commercial rock station. Why? The reason has something to do with their independent integrity, the fact that I don't listen to my local commercial rock station or the fact that there's something curiously catatonic about the Stepford Five's heartfelt post-hardcore sturm und drang.
They're adequate at going through the motions. A trace of the band's energy is there, and their long time together has left them well oiled and tight (and better produced). "No Use", with its chiming arpeggios and olympic drumming, commands attention, but most of A New Design for Living is so stiltedly derivative of already questionable bands like Gameface and even Creed ("Last Possibility") that merely paying attention becomes a taxing effort. Add to that Keith Jenkins's hoarse voice, which completely lacks range, and you're left with a third album that simply doesn't demonstrate any improvement. I'm not saying that it's time for the Stepford Five to give up, but maybe they should rethink that whole "staying the course" thing. -- Justin Stewart