Sunday, April 29, 2012

A mixed sound

album review

On their comeback album, Kids in the Street, The All-American Rejects try to widen their repertoire and opt for more experimentation

Artist: The All-American Rejects
Album: Kids in the Street

I almost find it hard to believe that it has been over three years since The All-American Rejects released their previous album, When the World Comes Down, mostly because its lead single, 'Gives You Hell', is still very firmly stuck in my head. Then again, it doesn't really feel like it's been nearly seven years since 'Dirty Little Secret' or ten - yes, a whole decade - since 'Swing, Swing' came out. So either my mind has been trapped in some kind of a time vacuum or The All-American Rejects have mastered the art of combining catchy hooks with infectious energy to create singles that have an uncanny habit of turning into persistent, unrelenting earworms.

Diehard fans of the band who are concerned with more than just the radio hits, however, must have found this same three year interval ridiculously long. And it's precisely these fans who will know the group's back catalogue well enough to notice the change in direction that The Rejects have taken with their latest album, Kids in the Street.

Since first coming together in 1999, the band from Oklahoma have seen considerable success with their singles and sold millions of records in the process while wading through the divisive waters of pop rock. Their fourth studio release, Kids in the Street sees the group continue refining their brand of power pop while expanding their sound and lacing it with retro influences.

Mostly a mid-tempo affair, the album features 11 tracks, all written by vocalist Tyson Ritter and guitarist Nick Wheeler, and produced by Greg Wells (Katy Perry, Adele, Weezer). Ritter's distinctive delivery still powers the songs and the focus of the content mostly remains on issues revolving around relationships.

Both album opener 'Someday's Gone' and the cheeky lead single 'Beekeeper's Daughter' don't stray far from the band's standard pop rock territory, but the album soon yields to more subdued material. Other than the stomping glam tinged 'Walk Over Me' which picks up the pace midway through the album, most of the tracks try to emulate measured maturity. The interesting treatments applied to 'Bleed into Your Mind' and 'Gonzo' effortlessly lure listeners in, while songs like the synth ridden 'Heartbeat Slowing Down', the vulnerable 'Affection', and the stripped album closer 'I for You' take the road of emotional balladry, and see the band experiment with electronics, strings, and varying tempos.

The album's highlight comes in the form of second single and title track, the nostalgic 'Kids in the Street', which finds a nice balance between The Rejects' more traditional sound and the evolution they yearn for. But all too often the songs seem uninspired and lack the very ambition that they are meant to exude. The thing that limits Kids in the Street is that the band seems to have held back, and at times their musical intentions remain unclear. Most of the songs on this album aren't as immediate as their hit singles, and the subtle experimental touches aren't enough to win over listeners accustomed to their more catchy pop ditties. Fans who have been religiously following the band for the last decade will definitely feel the difference and will, in all likelihood, be divided over the musical road the band has decided to go down and the producer they have chosen to accompany them on this journey.

Kids in the Street is ultimately a record that sees The All-American Rejects trying to widen their repertoire. Their traditional style is somewhat more subdued in favour of more experimentation, but while the album does begin with promise and offers some interesting content later, the sound doesn't always fully come together with conviction. All too often the band trades their infectious vigour for maturity, and treats these two elements like they're mutually exclusive; let's hope that by the next album they realize that they don't have to abandon one in favour of the other and learn how to strike the right balance between the two.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 29th April, 2012

No comments: