Album: Fight or Flight
If you ask someone to name a Hoobastank song, it is very likely that their answer will be 'The Reason'. It is also very likely that if you ask them to name another song by the band, they will be hard-pressed to come up with one more title. The alternative rock group saw massive success with the aforementioned song which served as the title track of their 2003 album, and have since struggled to match the appeal of this global hit; none of their subsequent songs have done nearly as well, and their albums have garnered a lukewarm reception.
Now, after parting ways with their record label and going down the independent route, the guys are back with their fifth studio album, Fight or Flight. Comprising of eleven tracks, the set sees them working with producer Gavin Brown. The content is still angst-ridden - there's talk about pain and conflict, both within and without - but musically it's simply alternative rock that caters to the fans of the genre with radio friendly rock anthems and tries to do little else.
Fight or Flight kicks off with one of the more gritty songs on the album, the first single 'This is Gonna Hurt'. The songs that follow are mostly not as hard-hitting. Some - like the melodious 'You Before Me', the heartfelt 'Magnolia', and the edgy 'No Win Situation' which seems reminiscent to their earlier material - stand out. Others take a few listens to make an impact.
The overall sense of the album, however, is that of familiarity. With Fight or Flight, the band isn't breaking any new ground. This is alternative rock by the numbers. In fact, some of this material is so tailor made for rock radio that it's hard to tell it apart and distinguish it from other modern rock staples. The band seems to have sunk into the safety of middle of the road alt rock; there is no sense of experimentation or attempts to further develop their sound, and missing is the energy and the heavier vibe that was promised by the lead single, 'This is Gonna Hurt', and which, when employed, easily makes this outfit more interesting.
Those who remember 'Crawling in the Dark' know the band entered the music scene with a lot of promise. And there's no denying that as vocalist and musicians, they're certainly a capable group. But as songwriters and composers, there's something to be desired. Hoobastank are not saying much here that they and their contemporaries haven't said before, and they aren't saying it very differently either or using a different musical canvas for their thoughts. That's not to say the songs on this album won't resonate with listeners; there are many out there who will relate to what the band is trying to express. But there isn't anything that sets this album apart musically or content-wise.
Still, the album is quite listenable, but while it may be an improvement on their recent releases, there is a sense that Fight or Flight could have been better. For casual listeners, there is no 'The Reason' here, and chances are that some of these tracks will struggle to keep you engaged. Fans will certainly find things to like about these songs, but this set isn't likely to win the band any converts.
- By Sameen Amer
Instep, The News on Sunday - 30th September, 2012