Wednesday, January 3

2/3rds of Pop Punk Powerhouse Bring More of the Same

Artist: +44

Album: When Your Heart Stops Beating

Comments:Of the two bands formed in the wake of the breakup of Blink 182, +44 has stayed closest to their pop punk roots on their debut “When Your Heart Stops Beating”. The first three songs on the album reflect this fact; “Lycanthrope”, “Baby Come On”, and “When Your Heart Stops Beating” serve as a three song blast of high octane pop punk designed to draw the listeners in. Of the three, “Baby Come On” is the real standout, as it features the best song writing and a really good hook.

After the three song assault that sounds largely like Alkaline Trio B sides, “Little Death” kicks in, brining with it the albums first instance of programming and electronica. +44 was originally going to be an electronica focused group before they decided to go the darker pop punk route, so it’s no surprise that this album has programmed drums and synth loops all over it. Sometimes this works very well like on “Little Death” and, the call and response heart wrencher of “Make You Smile”. However, it doesn’t always hold up especially when the band leans more on elctronica, rather than their instruments. It’s on those songs, where simplistic samples cannot lean on Hoppus’s lyrics for structure, that +44 really falters.

(A quick note on the electronica in this album: Here’s a question that I can’t seem to figure out: if you played in a pop punk band and your drummer was Travis Barker, arguably one of the most accomplished and talented drummers of any generation, why would you use programmed drums? The man is like a drum machine himself; some of the rhythms he is able to maintain almost defy time signatures all together. He is better with one arm than 95% of rock drummers, more than a fair share of Jazz drummers, and yet programmed drums are all over this record. I just don’t get it. This is like ordering a 18oz steak at Outback Steakhouse and filling up on bread and blooming onion before the food gets here; sure the appetizers are good, but the steak is in a league of its own. Ok, back to the review.)

The songwriting throughout the album is somewhat of an issue. Listening to the record, you can tell that Mark Hoppus is trying to progress his song writing past the sophomoric jokes and adolescent heartbreak of Blink 182’s catalogue. One sign of this maturity is the use of swear words; with Blink 182, words like fuck and shit were used as school yard punch lines to get an easy laugh. With +44, swear words are used as exclamations and expressions of emotion. Little things like that show an attempt at growth. Some songs, like “Baby Come On” work because of Hoppus’ more mature lyrical touch, but he also falters, especially on the first single “When Your Heart Stops Beating” and “No, It Isn’t”. It’s a shame that the song writing is so poor on “No It Isn’t”, because it’s one of the my favorite songs on the album musically.

This record works, except when it doesn’t. The electronica sounds good, except when there’s no pop punk to support it. The pop punk is good, but only when the electronica is there to balance it out. The songwriting is good, except for when it isn’t. Confused? Don’t be; +44’s debut is a record that shows a lot of promise and room for growth despite all of its short comings. This album picks up where Blink 182’s self titled album left off, with more serious subject matter and a more adult sound all together. +44 still sounds like Blink 182 at times, but they also show signs of becoming a band with an identity all their own. I’m looking forward to that, because they could be something. They just aren’t something yet.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Key Tracks: "Baby Come On", "Little Death", "Make You Smile"

Worth the Money: It depends. Blink 182 fans will like it, but others may not.

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