REVIEW: The All-American Rejects – Kids in the Street

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Artist: The All-American Rejects
Album: Kids in the Street
Genre: Rock
Label: Interscope, DGC

Tyson Ritter commented during an interview that this album sounds like The All-American rejects “finally got their shit together and wrote a record that was going to keep them around.” With respect, I disagree, because this album is a mess. Far from a mature and cohesive release that might do something for their longevity, it’s lazy, unsure of itself, and painfully uninspired. There are no illustrious calling cards begging us to keep paying attention – a lot of this does the exact opposite in fact, and puts one right off.

This is a shame really, as while I’ve never been a regular listener to the band their particular brand of infectious, uproarious rock had always appealed to me. On Kids in the Street however, they take a trip to a more experimental place and don’t quite bond with it. The songs in and of themselves are OK, but barely two or three have any real quality, while the others play about with vocal stylings and backing effects so much that they derail any narrative they had in the first place. I can understand that some of this may have come from life experience and events, but they haven’t found a way to align this coherently with their songwriting.

The album seems to start over about twenty times in its first six songs. Neither “Somebody’s Gone” nor “Beekeeper’s Daughter” do much to stake some energy and life into proceedings, so it seems lethargic from the beginning. The latter in particular falls badly on its use of brass instruments, which seem awkward and out of place and fail to rejuvenate the morose indulgence of the singing. Indeed, Ritter seems uncharacteristically disinterested throughout. There’s a leering, removed tone to the way in which he sings that clashes with the more adventurous throes in the music, and does little to steer already jarring songs forward. “Fast and Slow,” which had seemed to settle into some kind of natural rhythm, is ultimately disappointing as the chorus scales back the music instead of upping the stakes. The hushed tones in which Ritter sings and the barely-there female vocals are sullen and dull after the careful build up, and despite the earnestness of the lyrical message the interplay becomes nauseating after a while. Further, the album still seems flyaway, with no fluid sound or character to any of the songs.

“Heartbeat Slowing Down” reinvents things again, with vague, synth-like effects. It peters out unspectacularly, never showcasing enough depth or grit to engage the listener. The addition of an oddly spiritual set of backing vocals in the final strains really undermines it; creating a grossly exaggerated sense of self-importance that’s almost embarrassing. This pretentious vibe also infuses “Affection,” which is nonsensically bad.

It isn’t until track seven, then, that the band seems to find something worth expressing. The title track, “Kids in the Street” is the first song that sounds in any way serious or focused. Its add-ons do their best to unravel that, but the band manages to throw aside their idiocy and compose something alive, interesting, and compelling. “Bleed Into Your Mind” is also promising. Adopting a minimalistic, dulcet tone, it’s a warm ode to happy memories. There’s life in the throbbing beat and this charges it into something genuinely lifting and spirited.

The All-American Rejects need not have sought to write something that could prove their staying power. They’ve been an established name for over ten years; they don’t have to worry they’ll be swept aside. Further, if it was artistic merit they were seeking with this album, they need to go back to the drawing board. I can appreciate more innovative sentiments but it has to be allied to genuine vision. This probably had good ideas in its infancy, but they’ve been realised in an incoherent, tawdry, benign manner. They may yet find some strength in experimentation but unfortunately, you can cast most of this aside.

SCORE: 4/10
Review written by Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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