At any rate, I figured it'd be worth my time to check out their latest release, Come Around Sundown. I will fully admit that I didn't pay for it. But, to that fact, I will also submit this retort: this band has made me put down good money for two very shitty, very mainstream, exceptionally average albums before this one.
* * * * * * *
Executive summary: Not bad. Not great, but not bad.
It's loud, compressed out to maximum volume 99% of the time. Every last bit of sonic room is filled with rhythm guitars, echoes of all sorts, cymbals, harmony vocals, and assorted flotsam and jetsam.
Tracks 1-3 aren't so bad. They're a little more subdued, and the third cut, "Pryo," is almost easy to listen to, except when they decide to get all arena-rock towards the end.
The fourth cut, "Mary," wants to pay homage to 1950s early rock-and-roll, but does so in the loudest possible way, which undercuts the whole effort.
Number five, "The Face," is clearly going to be released as a single. By golly, when did this band turn into shitty late-era U2, anyway?
"Back Down South" contains hints of fiddle, but seriously, the whole thing is dripping with way too much reverb.
Track #10, "Pony Up," sounds like KoL trying to be XTC.
My favourite track of the lot is #11, "Birthday" — not just because the ol' odometer is flipping over in a couple of days, but because it actually has the audacity to be (relatively) quiet, most of the time.
Overall, this album's structure is a lot like Because of the Times: the first half is front-loaded with big, loud stadium-rock numbers; then they sit back, relax a bit, and make tunes that (I presume) the band wants to make, rather than the record company pushing this thing.
Just for fun, I queued-up Aha Shake Heartbreak right after listening to Come Around Sundown, so I could contrast them right beside one another, and WOW. Listen to anything on the last three albums, then listen to "Milk" from ASH, and... holy crap. The earlier stuff sounds like it's being played in your living room with the band trying hard not to disturb the Crazy Cat Lady* downstairs, in comparison to the later stuff which aims to annoy people forty miles away.
Conclusion: The new album isn't bad, per se; the production annoys me more than anything. The song structures are really conventional, which isn't surprising seeing as how they've gone on the record to say they want to appeal to as many fans as possible. I'm glad I didn't buy this record — I'm saving my pennies for the new Bees album, and hopefully Sonic Boom has the vinyl — and I will delete it from my computer forthwith. But, if you let me at the original tapes so I could make it sound the way I wanted... yeah, I think we'd have something to work with here.
* She's actually been pretty calm these days.