On A Violent Impression, This Picture, an English quartet from Bath, seems like just another U2 knockoff: an overeager band mistaking hyper-emotive delivery for true soul and feeling. While guitarist Robert Forrester and bassist Austen Rowley churn out anthemic, ultra-enthusiastic instrumentation, drummer Duncan Forrester (Robert’s brother) backs everything with the same kind of pulse-quickening energy U2 employed on its War album. Symon Bye’s insistence on pushing his sweet, almost delicate tenor into fiery, Bono-esque exclamations (circa The Unforgettable Fire) on nearly every song doesn’t help, either. The times when things do come together perfectly — as on the bewitching, voluptuous balladry of “Death’s Sweet Religion” and the adrenaline-rush excitement of “Naked Rain” — only make the other material seem more lacking in conviction.
The identity crisis continues on City of Sin. Again, a few outstanding tracks make the others sound uncertain, but there is some notable progress, especially in Bye’s singing. He’s more controlled and confident here, proving especially charismatic on the quiet, lovely “The Prophet.” “Nobody cares when you’re in this rut,” Bye sings on “Highrise,” and one is left to wonder if he’s talking about his own group’s frustrations over not being able to brave a leap into musical originality.