A version of this review appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
David Cook “This Loud Morning” (19 Recordings/RCA Records)
“American Idol’s” best known and most accomplished rocker, David Cook fully embraces the rock ‘n’ roll tradition of creating a true album rather than a random collection of singles and filler with his sophomore effort, “This Loud Morning.”
A mainstay on the Tulsa music scene before winning the seventh season of “Idol,” Cook may have risen to national fame on a reality TV show, but in many ways, the singer/songwriter/guitarist can be regarded as a throwback. Not only is he releasing a bona fide album in the digital era, he also continues to favor the arena-filling jangle of post-grunge to rough-edged modern rock. While his musical preferences remained firmly rooted in the 1990s, the 12 tracks on “This Loud Morning” still have a contemporary sensibility that keep them from becoming mired in nostalgia.
Cook’s second major-label release isn’t quite a concept album, but it successfully follows a clear-cut thematic and sonic thread. Wisely, “This Loud Morning” opens and closes with its strongest tracks, “Circadian” and “Rapid Eye Movement.” The former, which he penned with bandmate Neal Tiemann and Evanescence’s David Hodges, chimingly offers sleep as an escape from life’s problems. The latter presents the prospect of awaking to face the day, with Cook and Hodges delving into a much darker and heavier sound but taking the album full circle by bringing back the evocative music-box tinkling and children’s choir crooning of the opener.
In between, Cook followd the arc of a doomed relationship, starting with the buoyant optimism of “Right Here, With You,” which he penned with Goo Goo Doll Johnny Rzeznik, Ryan Star and Greg Wattenberg, and the steadfast faith of “We Believe.” The romance reaches its zenith with the sensual “Fade into Me,” but as it marches into the next track, “Hard to Believe,” the affair is clearly in trouble.
Cook and Tulsa-born OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder co-wrote the deceptively bouncy lead-off single, “The Last Goodbye,” and it’s regret-filled lyrics set up the weary resignation of the piano ballad “Goodbye to the Girl,” penned with fellow Midwest Kings alumni Tiemann and Andy Skib.
While Cook deserves praise for developing a cohesive narrative, his new album adheres too closely to its sonic throughline. The middle section consists entirely of passionate power ballads and anthemic midtempo rockers, which eventually melt together until it’s tough to tell one song from the next.
Still, fans who have been waiting for new music since fall 2008, when Cook released his self-titled post-“Idol” debut, will eagerly seize “This Loud Morning.”