The All-American Rejects - When the World Comes Down
Record Label: Interscope
Release Date: December 16, 2008
Allow me to preface this review by stating that I like pop music. Sure, my tastes seem to point more in the “orgcore” direction, however, my affiliation with the pop music world has been a long, memorable relationship (hell, I even admit to once liking British pop band BBMak). Getting over the speed bumps of Metro Stations and Boys who Like Girls has been daunting, believe me. But, in the end, looking back on all the hooks and the joy popular music has given me is well-worth all the obstacles lazy musicians attempting to thwart my enjoyment put in front of me.
One thing pop music can - and does - give to the masses is more than just an upbeat hook with a catchy chorus to hum in the shower (or, if you’re like me, bubble baths with candles & incense) - it’s appeal and emotion. Appeal, as in accessibility and, yes, emotion – listen to anything done by the Beatles, Beach Boys or Simon & Garfunkel. There is emotion there, and it’s a shame radio-tailored pop music written by drones has overshadowed the once-classic style.
After premiering at the height of the Warped Tour Pop Extravaganza (as it should be renamed), The All-American Rejects came out with a bang, their eponymous debut giving new life to keyboards and overproduced organics (who knew acoustic guitars could sound so delectable!). Remember “Swing Swing” and “The Last Song”? Bold and ambitious, yet simple enough for the purpose of accessibility, the band was marvelous at giving heart-on-sleeve teenagers songs to bop their heads to while learning to drive (hopefully they listened to the music after they got their license – safety first!).
2005’s Move Along was even better, adding some edge to their pop-friendly sound. “Night Drive” and “Change Your Mind” were mainstream enough to be in video games & department store ads, yet they still provided a solid dose of powerpop the world had not truly seen in years. Given the competition they had for “bands most likely to be featured on the Laguna Beach soundtrack,” you could have done a whole lot worse… and frankly, still could.
Nearly three years later, the band’s third release, When The World Comes Down, makes an attempt at continuing to carry that heavy burden of being a creative pop outfit in a Jeffree Starr-induced world. Sounds easy enough, however it simply comes off as trite and half-hearted; if you can get bored & anxious listening to a four-minute pop tune, the execution is simply flawed. The production value by Eric Valentine (Good Charlotte, Taking Back Sunday) is lacking the “oomph” Howard Benson gave their last album, and the essential points I mentioned earlier (appeal and emotion) are all but words on paper.
First single “Gives You Hell” is a keyboard-laced snoozer without any genuine hook or imagination, and “Breakin’” sounds like a Jonas Brothers or Metro Station b-side ("Yeah, I figured it out / Breakin's what the heart is for"). “Believe” and the standard ballad “Another Heart Calls” reek of lack of effort, both uninspired and repetitive (particularly “Believe”); "Another Heart Calls" conversational-style is more obnoxious than effective. The band seems too concerned with writing prom themes over riding that wave they found on their sophomore album. The ballads on that album had a spark to them, while here they are bland retreads.
That isn’t to say the album doesn’t have its share of bright spots: “Damn Girl” may sound like the title of Akon’s next chart-topper, but it actually contains a rapid-fire chorus while “Fallin’ Apart” starts out like an ELO classic before breaking into a “Come On Eileen”-style barn-burner. “Real World” is the album’s heaviest cut, and it’s a shame it has to be sandwiched in-between two forgettable slow numbers. The band doesn’t provide enough moments where each member can shine, with Tyson Ritter’s vocals sounding much more high-pitched and nasally than ever. Nick Wheeler & Mike Kennerty are never given the opportunity to showcase their improved guitar skills, and Ritter’s bass blends in with the production so it’s virtually unheard (the record sounds rather filtered). The efficiency that drummer Chris Gaylor displayed during Move Along is also taken away here, with Valentine’s production focused on synthesizers & orchestrations over any real cohesive songwriting and exhibition.
The lyrics are another huge handicap for the All-American Rejects; for a band in their 20’s, it’s simply embarrassing to hear Ritter belt out the emo-soaked tripe you can hear every young pop band sing any day of the week (“I wanna touch you / You wanna touch me, too” or “Look out the window at the sky that doesn’t care”). Whatever grand pop scheme the band tossed out the window for this, they’re better off regaining that momentum and not living up to their name.
I much prefer your writing/review style over Tony's. I only mention this because of the album review and album releases from today. I can actually visualize the music as you describe it. Tony's review lacked enough description to make the review memorable. I've totally forgotten about what he said. Granted, I did purchase FOB's record and will not purchase AAR's, but your review gave it a shot, even if it was a snowball in hell.