The Format is a band that no longer exists, but for those who are not as keen to accept and enjoy all the eccentricities of Nate Ruess’ new music with Fun, traveling back in time and giving Interventions & Lullabies an extended listen is a great idea. The Format’s appeal lies in the fact that they employ regular instruments while taking advantage of Ruess’ gifted and melodic vocals. This formula far overshadows his new project’s reliance on Ruess’ increasingly unpredictable singing, horns and other peculiar additions. The Format created a soft rock masterpiece with their 2003 debut release, producing an entire album full of delightful and memorable tracks that grab the attention of any listener. Casual music fans will find these songs attractive in how light and down-to-earth they are.
Interventions & Lullabies doesn’t mesmerize listeners with deep lyrical themes, nor will it amaze them by shattering instrumental boundaries; but where the album succeeds is in its ability to charm and entertain with simple, pleasant music. This is the kind of album people are first exposed to at a younger age that remains dear to them as they grow older, the kind with timeless melodies sure to recall happy and comforting memories from the past when revisited. It is unfortunate that The Format broke up and that their sophomore effort, Dog Problems, was unable to duplicate this record’s appeal or maintain some sense of normalcy in the music (Dog Problems shows signs of transitioning to Ruess’ future project, Fun, with more horns and other experimental elements). Despite all of these unpleasant facts, Interventions & Lullabies is distinguished enough to make The Format a band worth remembering.
“The First Single (You Know Me)” quickly establishes the album’s buoyant tone, which is no ordinary feat considering the fact that the lyrics are actually negative on their own. A consistent snare beat and upbeat cymbals on the drums, along with the potent mix of acoustic and electric guitars provide context for the true, optimistic meaning of the song, allowing it to come alive despite the literal meaning of the words. This cheerful and appropriately-named anthem also gives a good first look at Ruess’ unpolished yet fittingly melodic voice. When all of these elements are thrown in with a clapping scheme sure to encourage listener participation, the laid-back and catchy nature of The Format becomes undeniable.
“Tie The Rope” captures the essence of The Format, blending smooth and easy rock with pleasant vocals, a common theme on Interventions & Lullabies. This song is about being overwhelmed by the bliss of love’s grip and the nerves that come with it, echoed by Ruess’ proclamations of “When I’m with you there’s no point in breathing.” Utilizing frequent metaphors in cleverly-written verses, this song’s lovable nature is paramount when the chorus comes around. Despite the morbid central metaphor that also serves as the song title, the track comes off as a pleasant tune because of a peppy and upbeat chorus with stylishly collected and composed vocals. The splash of the cymbals and the electric guitar riff scheme throughout the song add to its appeal and make it a clear choice for best on the album.
“On Your Porch” slows things down for a smooth acoustic piece that represents the album’s most sincere and heartfelt moment. A look at the lyrics reveals a touching story about life and the singer’s personal journey. There’s not a lot of flash to this song, but that’s what makes it so genuine. Ruess’ raw, soft vocals, two acoustic guitars and light accompanying strings joining the background keep it mellow and simple, which makes it all the more elegant.
“Sore Thumb” quickly picks up the tempo, leading off with an explosive intro of energetic drumming and blaring guitar riffs that are seen every time the fast-paced chorus rolls around. This stinging song attests to the messy end of a long-term relationship and all the negative emotions involved with moving on. Ruess’ vocals are right on the money here, rising with the remorse and passion of the chorus and falling during the reflective verses. This is close to the pinnacle of not only Ruess’ vocals, but of the band’s talent in regards to producing a flawless alternative rock song.
It is unfortunate that the potent combination of Ruess and multi-instrumentalist Same Means had to end. Nate Ruess is a gifted vocalist, there is no doubt about that, but Means and Ruess complemented each other very well in The Format. This album represents a time when Ruess was able to blend his unique voice with enjoyable, simple and structured music, rather than the unconventionally quirky components of Fun. Both bands produce happy music, but The Format’s style was much more accessible compared to Fun’s slightly whimsical formula. This jovial and easy-going style of music will be right up the alley of fans of Fun, Steel Train, Jack’s Mannequin, Something Corporate, We Shot The Moon and The Starting Line. Even though Fun’s music is on the rise and Means has moved on as well, Interventions & Lullabies will prove nearly impossible for either musician to top.
Final Score: 8/10
Rank: 1st (two total albums)
- The First Single (You Know Me)
- Wait, Wait, Wait
- Give It Up
- Tie The Rope
- Tune Out
- I’m Ready, I Am
- On Your Porch
- Sore Thumb
- A Mess To Be Made
- Let’s Make This Moment A Crime
- Career Day
- A Save Situation
- Give It Up (Acoustic)