I know it might seem like a stupid waste of precious paper real estate to utilize this space for the purpose of bashing as opposed to praising (what a giveaway). But considering the sad fact that every time you purchase a CD at full retail price you are being unmercifully gouged by the recording industry, it seems at least as useful for music writers to occasionally make recommendations against stinky product as it is for them to rave about that which manages to transcend the mundane. After all, it's nothing less than your precious, hard-earned money and hard-won leisure time that's at stake.
Submitted for our amusement: the debut album by the All-American Rejects (DreamWorks).
Chirpy, way-affected vocals, adroit melody and harmony construction, spunk and whiskers and peppy arrangements don't add up to squat here and do nothing to distinguish AMR from the legions of Weezer clones scrapping for that band's increasingly scarce leavings. It's corporate pop/punk with no twist whatsoever that smacks more of a marketing decision made somewhere in the bowels of DreamWorks Central Command than of anything approximating artistic integrity. Which is great goody goody gumdrops if you're into that sort of thing.
The band moons over women that ripped out their hearts, grapples with jealousy and vague, unfocused angst and expresses half-realized regret with some of the goofiest lyrics to come down the pike in a fortnight. "Swing, Swing" (uh... the "hit") spotlights pretty much every reason why All-American Rejects should still be playing high school proms instead of cluttering up the bins at Tower. A recycled four-chord progression surrenders to the chunka-chunka as singer Tyson Ritter launches into his irritating Billie Joe/ Rivers approximation, spewing forth such inanity as "Do you think that I would cry/ On the phone?/ Do you know what it feels like/ Being alone?" But really, you needn't go much further than the album's song titles to divine the level of songwriting sophistication here ("Time Stands Still," "Don't Leave Me," "Happy Endings," etc.).
These Stillwater, Okla., natives are probably perfectly sweet guys beneath their shaggy 'dos and broad, pearly whites. And they create spunky music that almost anyone could plug into on some base level. Yep, they're perfectly harmless in every way. And that, I guess, is their gravest sin.
Publication date: 04/24/03