As far as teenage pop music goes, there isn't a whole lot that can transcend and speak to older age groups. Characterized in recent years by elementary chords, immature lyrics and male singers still waiting for a voice change, the whole category of music sells out from the get-go. Teen pop seems to just produce and reproduce the terrible music of bands before them (see: Blink 182, A Simple Plan, Sum 41).
Though they're few and far between, it's always refreshing to find that there are youngsters out there producing reasonably intelligent and thoughtful music. The Format is groundbreaking within its genre, but the duo still has a long way to go before it can cater to a wider audience.
Their debut is a page ripped from the journal of a teenage boy -- or at least it seems to be. Nate Ruess and Sam Means have vocals similar to Ben Folds, but with the immaturity of Ben Kweller. They couple their ballad-like songs with synthesizers, drum machines and acoustic guitars, unfortunately emerging with an awkward, unpolished product.
The first single, aptly named "The First Single," is hardly representative of the rest of Interventions and Lullabies (Elektra). It's an excitable, drive-with-the-windows-down song, with Ruess and Means practically laughing out the lyrics.
But the happiness stops there. The rest of the album takes on the attitude of a spoiled teenager wanting to run away from home. While it's OK to vent those feelings through a few songs, the Format makes the mistake of singing about their angst on every single song on the album. It gets old fast, and I spent the rest of the time listening to how many times the words "leave," "leaving," "gone" or "alone" popped up on the album.
While I commend the band for exploring new instrumental combinations, they often cram too much into one song. On "Tune Out," the duo starts the song off slow, creating a nice conversational tone with the listener. But it's completely ruined when the song lurches into a hyper chorus and hammered-out chords. It's like striking up a nice conversation with someone, then suddenly yelling at them and sprinting away in mid-sentence.
The Format has a fair grasp on how to create decent music, but they don't really get past musical adolescence here.
Publication date: 1/15/04