Way slowed down, but still a solid modern take on the three minute rock song. Much less emo and more predictable than the previous album (and therefore a more heterogenous bunch of songs), but the saving grace of this is that the guys have figured out how to write a fucker of a song. Run-on sentence is done, and they save us time by putting all three of said fuckers right at the start of the album!
These guys had their schtick down early – story songs for 20-somethings to listen to and get nostalgic about that time in high school they got laid at their best friend’s cottage – so combine that with able but unremarkable rock stylings and gruff, echoey vocals and it’s really a matter of how well they can put it together.
And like I said – dem first three snogs! “Great Expectations” is full of its super catchy melody, memorable lyrics (even if that line about “everybody leaves so why wouldn’t you?” is pretty cringe). “The ’59 Sound” is even better, with the same bit about the memorable memory and lyrics, but with the awkward line replaced by a clever sentiment that’s as much about not forgetting the (sorta distant) past as it is about looking forward and more about scolding youth than praising it like most of the rest of the album. And that jumped-into chorus! Then “Old White Lincoln” has a descendy guitar riff and slinky bass line that makes this practically a Smiths song. Huzzah!
Then the album forgets about being memorable and gets pretty mediocre. Here’s a few things these guys do wrong:
1. Use “no more” instead of “any more” and other such ungrammatical quick fixes.
2. Use names in their story songs – pretending you’re talking about “Sally” or “Maria” or “Bobby Jean” or “Gail” makes me feel disconnected from the songs! And why use so many old woman names?
3. Misunderstand why cliches are termed as such, and repeat them in the exact same self-important tone that they repeat their actual insightful, sad lyrics.
4. Write 2000s Pearl Jam-esque blooze songs. The last album had emo acoustic songs! Why make these bads?
Here’s the big test if this album is for you: what do you think of the line “My how the years and our youth pass on”? I think it’s a pretty solid (and true) reflection on the reality of the mortality of our internal beauty as our external beauty fades. Brian Fallon is a smart guy (don’t miss the line about dancing on architecture!), and he knows what’s valuable to most 20-somethings (hint: not religion), and he plays us like god damned fiddles if he can find a decent melody to sing along to. But hey, maybe there’s no romance for you in the idea of escaping a small town, or California, or your grandmother, at least nothing worth loudly singing about, and that’s okay, but I’m easy to impress.
Also, the last song (“The Backseat”) is a ballsack.
7 / 10