William Tell, the former rhythm guitarist of Something Corporate, graced Storke Plaza on Tuesday with a fittingly corporate rock performance. It couldn’t have been easy for him to leave behind a piano rock band that got frequent radio play and a spot on Warped Tour, but Tell seemed cheerful as he proudly told the crowd of 40 or so people on the staircase that he would be performing at UCSB for a full hour.
Its good that he’s adjusted to university tour standards, since his pleasantly predictable performance of songs from 2007’s “You Can Hold Me Down” began to drag by the 30-minute mark. He is a talented singer, though not in the raw, nasally way that made SC front man Andrew McMahon sound so distinctively bratty. Tell’s own singing voice is reminiscent of the many studio-enhanced boy band singers from the mid-’90s nineties, except that he was able to achieve this polished effect during a live show, without the help of a computer or producer.
His professional experience was evident from the first song, in which his lyrics about “spending every moment here with you” soared over the bass, guitar and drums. With his belted-out vocals and poppy melodies, he is definitely capable at commanding the audience’s attention. But his most genuine moments occurred while the music was on pause, when he carefully explained what each subsequent song would be about.
“Are any of you named Lauren?” he asked as several audience members raised their hands. “Well this song might creep you out.” The song, about a girl named Lauren who he “fucked things up with,” unfortunately did not sound much different from his songs about the Midwest, partying in LA and having sex with “girls or boys.” His song about “messing around” with someone whom “you don’t actually like” was one of the few standouts.
Despite the pimp-like introduction, “Lie With Me” turned out to be an apologetic ballad about being the focus of another’s unrequited love. And it was probably the only song where the lyrics did a better job of articulating emotion than his pre-song introductory banter. Lines like “I want to tell you that I love you/ But I don’t/ And it’s growing old now,” while being incredibly on-the-nose, still sounded convincing when accompanied by his slow yet subtly rhythmic keyboard chords.
The keyboard is his strong point, as his guitar playing often took the music to overly upbeat proportions. He complained that one of his sets sounded like early ’90s rock, but anyone who sings lines like “confidence/ she’s got more than Kanye” is clearly drawing more inspiration from bubblegum chart-toppers than from Kurt Cobain.