The Understudy - Not a bad start at all. In fact the EP opens with a song that is still amongst the band's best (though as far as I'm aware they don't play it much anymore), in the form of the Kate Cooper sung 'Ruddy' (that vocal chant backed by distorted bass chords towards the end of the song is a particularly brilliant moment). I hadn't listened to this release for quite a while, and was surprised at how good it was when I recently returned to it. It's much rawer than the band's other releases, and probably features some of the most complex song structures in the band's discography (ie: it doesn't rely on the 'clean verse, distorted chorus' formula to as great an extent as their subsequent releases... in fact a lot of the songs don't even really have obvious choruses).
Everybody Calm Down - My personal favourite, it seems to get everything right. It's more polished than The Understudy but not as slick as Oh The Romance, it has the right balance of noise and pop, and features not a single dud track. It also finishes with my personal favourite Iron On song, 'I Had To Read It More Than Once'. I just think that this is one of the best releases to come out of Brisbane in recent years. Apparently the band doesn't think too much of it, though (?).
Oh The Romance - After two successful EPs, Iron On released their debut album. To be (somewhat brutally) honest, it would have made a much better EP. Although it features some of the band's best material ('Learn Today, Earn Tomorrow', 'Playing Hard To Want', 'More Than Tape'), it also contains some songs that could probably best be described as 'Iron On By Numbers', which cause the album to get a bit samey towards the end. Although thanks to the production services of one Magoo, even the lesser tracks sound pretty huge. Don't get me wrong, it's still a fine album, I just think that it needed a bit more variety to live up to the EPs.
Which brings us to the present, and The Verse. Personally, I find this EP to be something of a mixed bag, though in a different way from Oh The Romance. Where the band's debut album tended to consist of songs that either worked in their entirety or just never quite found that much needed spark, many of the songs on this EP find that spark for certain sections and then lose it in others.
The EP starts with 'One Man Band', which kind of approaches being one of those 'Iron-On-By-Numbers' songs. There's nothing wrong with it, in fact there's a lot right with it - it's a well written song with a good melody (I really like the 'ooo' backing vocals in the verses) and a good amount of energy, but it just never really leapt out at me. I find it somewhat strange that it's the radio single, not because it's not representative of the band and their sound (because it is representative, VERY representative) but more because they've written countless songs that are far better. In fact I'd probably say that it's the worst song on the EP - which I guess says something about the band's consistency, since as I mentioned before it's still a good song.
Ross Hope's 'Showing Signs' follows next, and on this track Iron On get most things pretty spot on - there's some interesting delayed guitar parts in the verses, and the choruses are quite frankly huge. Very satisfying. There's just one problem... Hope's damn American accent. It's a pet peeve of mine, so maybe other people don't even notice it, but his vocal affectations are starting to annoy me to the extent that they just about ruin songs that I otherwise love. He doesn't talk that way, so why sing like that? There's something about the accent that kind of makes me question the sincerity of the rest of the song. Still... great freaking chorus. Probably the best song on the EP, accent notwithstanding.
The next two songs ('Snow' and 'Can't Concentrate') explore some new ground for Iron On, being predominantly acoustic songs with some new (for Iron On) choices in instrumentation, namely some keys and drum machines. They're both quite good songs too, and show that the band are looking to expand their sound to an extent, which bodes well for their next full length.
The Verse finishes with 'Terrible Year', which again shows some interesting new ground being explored by the band, this time in the form of a sludgy two-chord riff in the verses. It's interesting, it works in putting an slightly new spin on the Iron On Sound... and then the choruses come in and just completely jar with the verses. Two chords, upbeat, it's like they've been ripped from a completely different song. Not necessarily a bad different song, but... it just sounds weird. I've had about a month to get used to the changes and they STILL sound strange.
I love Iron On. I don't love this EP, but I do love bits of it. I like the fact that it shows the band covering some new ground. I think it shows promising signs for their forthcoming sophomore album. I like Iron On when they're a little bit weirder (which is why I like Everybody Calm Down the most), and The Verse shows them being a little bit weirder. I just think that on a few occasions they've chosen to be a little bit weirder in a weird way. Still, I'd rather see them try something new and maybe come up slightly short than to just blindly continue on with the sound that they've pretty much mastered.