Single Review: Parmalee, “Carolina”

Parmalee CarolinaI think I’ve discovered a virtue of rock bands that choose to go country.  They feel a need to dial it back a bit, so we end up with a less cluttered, more straightforward performance.

There’s nothing distinguishingly country about “Carolina”, which makes it stand out among a lot of what’s on country radio right now.  But here’s the rub. It stands out because it’s not as garishly loud as the rock wannabes up and down the radio dial right now.   They don’t try as hard as Darius Rucker or even Sheryl Crow to make it at least sound like they’re seriously attempting country music, but maybe less loud rock music is the best we can hope for these days.

So, in case you’re pining for the days of Third Eye Blind and such, here you go.  They’re called Parmalee.

Written by Rick Beato, Barry Knox, Joshua McSwain, Matt Thomas, and Scott Thomas

Grade: C



  1. Kevin, we tip our hats to you for a top-notch review of the latest single from Daughtry!

    (rolls eyes) ;)


    Seriously, this sounds like a carbon copy of Daughtry with an inferior lead vocalist.

    I GUESS you can do worse on “country” radio circa 2013 A.D., but that’s giving Parmalee way too much credit as is. “Carolina” just sounds completely colorless and threadbare.

    I will give frontman Matt Thomas this: he does sound like he believes what he is selling and does genuinely feel homesick to some extent. But my praise for the song abruptly ends there, when you consider just how empty the songwriting is to begin with.


    Ultimately, the real question I’m left with after having listened to “Carolina” is: “Why?”

    Why do we need yet another song about the wear and tear of life on the road away from home and the longing to be home again and reunited with those you love? Especially when we even have superior takes on this subject on the radio dial presently: most notably “Sweet Annie”, not to mention dozens upon dozens of jukebox classics that approach the theme with heartbreaking aplomb.


    “Carolina” amounts to nothing more than radio comfort food, all things considered. It doesn’t deserve a failing grade, but considering how forgettable and faceless it is, I’d give it a D+.

  2. Less loud is better but this song is just plain dull. I’ve said this before – when I hear it do I immediately want to play it again. The answer is emphatically NO!

  3. So, in case you’re pining for the days of Third Eye Blind and such, here you go. They’re called Parmalee.

    I’m not going to defend Third Eye Blind, who were pretty terrible, but at least “Semi-Charmed Life” and “Jumper” had decent hooks and melodies. “Carolina” has neither, and it has an especially constipated lead vocal working against it.

    Parmalee offers nothing but the banal “post grunge” that more or less killed modern rock as a commercial format. Collective Soul begat Three Doors Down begat Lifehouse begat Daughtry begat these guys. It’s a pretty sad lineage that has no source of musical influence any deeper than the interchangeable band that had the one “rock” hit at Adult Top 40 radio the year before.

    Which means that it now qualifies as country because it doesn’t sound like Dr. Luke produced it. Teacher says she’s tired of trying.

    But yes: At least the engineering isn’t too loud. That’s literally the one and only thing that makes this in any way distinctive.

  4. Do you remember the band The Calling? Their big song was “Wherever You Will Go.” Parmalee seems like a carbon copy of them to me, Matt Thomas sounds just like Alex Band and the production feels like something they would do.

    Basically, now that faceless Adult Pop/post-grunge rock bands can’t get airplay, they need to go country. Parmalee toured the East Coast for years as a rock band before going country after Nikki Sixx told them to try country.

    I actually kind of like “Wherever You Will Go.” Sure, nothing about it was super original and it could’ve been recorded by any number of other early 00s rock bands, but it had a nice melody, never felt too loud and had a couple, somewhat thoughtful lyrics.

    “When I’m gone/ You’ll need love/ To light the shadows on your face.”

    That lyric, though not amazing, is still more poetic than just about anything you hear on country radio these days. It would fit into the lyrics of “Carolina” just fine. But Parmalee avoids anything poetic and just states the most obvious in their song. Same goes for most of today’s country.

  5. I’m surprised to see Third Eye Blind getting some considerable backlash here.

    If you’re only evaluating them based on the ubiquitous “Semi-Charmed Life” and perhaps two of their other hit singles, then it is an ill-advised mistake in that they had remarkable depth on both their self-titled debut and “Blue”. Listen to “Wounded”, “God of Wine”, “Motorcycle Drive-By” and “The Background” in particular and you will see my point.

    After key songwriter and core member Kevin Cadogan left the band largely due to a fallout with frontman Stephen Jenkins (who now finds himself in endless hot water regarding displeasure from other former band members)………their quality declined, but even then I consider Third Eye Blind one of the better radio rock acts of the mid-to-late nineties.

    No, the rock acts that really left a sour taste in my mouth include 3 Doors Down, Live (after “Secret Samadhi”), Sugar Ray (look, I get they’re supposed to be a summer band, but how many times do you have to say “I wanna do it again!” in your songs? =X ), Blink-182, Korn and Limp Bizkit.

    And I think I know why this is: all of these acts are fronted by divisive frontmen who are often regarded as douches, not to mention often lack a sense of self-awareness in their craft. Stephen Jenkins may be a douche to many, but at least he is self-aware often, and I just think his bandmates had a raw energy and there was some surprising depth to his songwriting that lifted his band above others.

  6. Yeah, I remember The Calling. They were basically a one-hit wonder, with a minor hit in “Our Lives”.

    “Wherever You Will Go” just never really did it for me. The lyrics weren’t bad, but the production was just so sterile and I much preferred listening to Lifehouse between the two of them for my Adult Contemporary Rock fix because I’ve felt Lifehouse tends to have a bit more angst and edge to their production choices compared to many of their established peers (think “Sick Cycle Carousel”, “Spin”, “Blind” and “Halfway Gone”).

    I think that’s why The Calling were fated to a single hit while Lifehouse went onto enjoying a string of hits: the former’s production suffered from complete anonymity, while the latter actually tried to retain some of the aggression and personality (even though I will say Alex Band is a slightly better vocalist than Jason Wade).

  7. @Noah Eaton

    As the only person who’s posted anything about Third Eye Blind in this comment thread, I assume your lecture about that band’s merits was directed to me. Despite your assumption to the contrary, I’m quite familiar with the material on their albums beyond the two singles I mentioned in my post. I stand by my assessment that they’re pretty terrible but are not the most on-point comparison to Parmalee.

  8. Jonathan: It wasn’t directed at you alone, but Kevin equating them to Parmalee in the closing paragraph of his review.

    Simply put, you can do a whole lot worse than Third Eye Blind when picking out rock acts that exemplify mediocrity or insufferable qualities. One thing is of broad consensus: Stephen Jenkins is an egotistical douche, and his voice often gets on my nerves particularly on his band’s later material. I’m also inclined to think Kevin Cadogan represented the actual heart of the band instead of Stephen Jenkins in that, following his departure, Third Eye Blind’s track record has been much more messy and inconsistent (including some ill-fated and embarrassing stabs at “rapping”).

    But lyrically, though Jenkins has an unfortunate tendency to sing up his sleeve, he nonetheless delivers a lot of descriptive quality and imagery to a number of earlier tracks in particular that poetically stand out amongst much more banal and cliched fare from the likes of most other Adult Top 40/Alternative-centric acts of their time. Also, while privy to the obsession with hot-and-cold dynamics (quieter verse, louder chorus), the guitar work of their first two albums was pretty solid, in my opinion, compared to their key chart rivals.

    I just can’t get my head around the Parmalee-Third Eye Blind comparison with all due respect. Parmalee-Daughtry is easily the most fitting comparison in this context.

  9. I will admit this though: Third Eye Blind’s attempt at an Occupy Wall Street anthem (If There Ever Was A Time” was one of the Worst Singles of 2011, regardless of genre. And if both that and the equally cringe-worthy promotional single “Non-Dairy Creamer” are remotely indicative of Jenkins’ musical and artistic direction leading into their fifth studio album, then you’ll find me joining their chorus in deriding all their later-career offerings as terrible! ;)

  10. I never was much of a Third Eye Blind fan either, mostly because I really don’t like Steven Jenkins’ voice. They did still have a handful of good songs, though, I think. I wish that bands like them could still get support on Pop, Hot AC and Alternative radio these days. I miss that poppy, hooky, alt-rock of the late nineties.

    I also don’t think Parmalee is very similar to Third Eye Blind. Third Eye Blind generally had bright guitar tones and many traits of a late nineties, radio-geared alt-rock band. Parmalee sounds more like an early ’00s radio rock band to me. For me, The Calling is still the closest band to them.

    I feel I should mention that I don’t hate “Carolina.” I simply feel nothing towards it at all. Given today’s country scene, that’s kind of a good thing. When it comes on the radio, I sometimes just let it play out instead of switching stations. Nothing about it is remotely remarkable, but it avoids being terrible. Just like “Wherever You Will Go.”

    The only thing about the song I really don’t like is the “Oh Oh Ooohh Ohs” before the final chorus. They just feel so over dramatic. But basically, this is a bland pop/rock song, built over a simple chord progression, meant to fit nicely into radio playlists. Nothing terrible, nothing especially good, but it accomplishes its goal.

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