Mainstream Manifesto: "Kids In The Street" - The All-American Rejects
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Posted 10 May 2012 - 08:11 PM
The All-American Rejects are a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. In the world of mainstream music, Tyson Ritter and his crew of goons have been making foot stomping anthems about love and hope ever since their debut self-titled album. "Swing, Swing" was a hit right off the bat, instantaneously spawning the Rejects into the limelight of modern music. If you didn't know them yet, 2005's Move Along would shake the mainstream music scene for months. I can tell you personally that when I was younger, I loved that album like my own child. I used to hear the cleverly written "Dirty Little Secret" and the motivational anthem "Move Along" on the radio all the time. The Rejects were getting attention and even Lego was running a campaign for their Bionicle toy line which starred the band as taken prisoners. Fast forward to 2008 and meet When the World Comes Down. It was the first experimental work by the Rejects in which they played around with sounds and lyrics to create a similar yet different product to the music they normally make. "Gives You Hell" would take a few months, but it would eventually then become incredibly popular. Another hit for the Rejects, of course.
However, most bands change over time. Take blink-182's Neighborhoods as a good example. The guys who used to sing about sex, girls, and people who like to take shit on other people are now making songs that are actually, well, meaningful. Not all bands have to change in this way, and not all will, but this is the kind of direction The All-American Rejects are taking. Kids in the Street is three years in the making of something a bit different. It is a work that doesn't just revolve around relationships and hope anymore. In fact, it is an uplifting album with a rather cynical tone. Tyson's writing spans a whole spectrum on the idea of what it is like to be young. From whores, having an ego, sexual tension, and drugs, to the will to leave, the will to remember, and the will to go crazy, the Rejects take a whole new twist on their modern rock. If that's not enough, even Tyson Ritter has changed his hairstyle. He also pitched for the Cubs the other day. What's up with that?
From the start of the album, Kids in the Street already dips its careful little toes into the pool of musical change. "Someday's Gone" is a cynical story bluntly about romantic betrayal and the wonders of whoring. Besides swearing for the first time in Rejects history (which I'm sure is a big deal for some people), Tyson's cynical side comes out a lot in his lyrics in this song and a few throughout the album. The tone of the music contrasts drastically between songs. Songs like "Beekeeper's Daughter" and "Fast and Slow" are very synth heavy, another new experimental direction from the Rejects, and they have a very lighthearted tone to them. "Beekeeper's Daughter" is another one of Tyson's cynical works revolved a lot around the ego. I think the lyricism in this album has greatly matured. Much of the writing has grown stronger with these guys, and its no longer simple pop lyrics to keep you going. There's plenty of metaphors and such to give the songs a livelier feel in their meaning, and I think that's a very wise decision by these guys.
When it comes to contrast, this album varies from stronger tracks with more hard hitting sound to some lesser tracks with synth experimentation. This is a Rejects album that sounds nothing like its predecessors. When the World Comes Down was experimental but not in the sense that the sound itself was changed completely. In this case, the Rejects have really brought in a new side of them. Songs like "Walk Over Me" and "Out the Door" ring with hard hitting riffs and a hint of older music, the kind of stuff that really echoes in a positive way. Tyson's voice has grown a lot as well. In Move Along it had a strength to it, but this time around Tyson is bringing out the stronger parts of his vocals. Tracks that begin slowly like "Gonzo" and "Affection" gradually proceed into strong instrumentals and a real test of Tyson's vocal talent. I think what really comes out in this is the passion. I feel like the band really put their heart into this album. Tyson brings a strong side of him into the fray while Nick Wheeler really doles out some guitar work that was unheard of in earlier albums. Even though a lot of the album is synth heavy, mostly due to the Rejects wanting to broaden their horizons in sound work, everything that stood in their previous albums begins to grow here.
(The pitch is a little higher than it should be)
Of course, it wouldn't be a Rejects album without one of those songs you feel like chanting in a crowd. What better song than the title track itself, "Kids in the Street"? Tyson wrote this song to be the culmination of the album's concept: being a kid. It's one of those songs that implores you to look back on your past and make way for the future. It's very heavy with the synths but it's a pretty good track on its own, and brings a very nice idea into play. The lyrics in this album, when they're not revolved around a few cynical concepts, are very much about the past and the future. "Gonzo", the longest track on the album, runs its hook with the verse, "Only when you look forward can you see behind." I think the result is very impressive, much like most of the writing on this album. The lyrics are very motivating and also revolve around the nature of the teenager who likes to reign hell to have fun. There are the tracks that revolve around the behavioral aspect, (Beekeeper's Daughter, Fast and Slow, Walk Over Me, Bleed Into Your Mind, Gonzo), and then there are the tracks which lyrics revolve around lighter concepts abound being younger, and more simply, about being human. (Someday's Gone, Heartbeat Slowing Down, Out the Door, Kids in the Street, Affection, I For You)
The musical balance is also very well executed. The album goes through phases of more powerful tracks and then slowly eases into more experimental tracks which tended to be a bit softer in tone. A lot of the synth and guitar usage is very unique and creates a nice new blend of sound. The Rejects really go through a drastic change in this album. You still have all the staples of an album by them; however, it has just increased itself to the nth degree and incorporated a lot more to create the flesh of the album. The sound and lyrical styles go hand and hand to create a product not quite seen from such a mainstream band like The All-American Rejects. Kids in the Street brings a new kind of project that really grows on you. I'll admit that some songs have their faults, but as far as the effort goes, I'd give this some credit. The writing and the music has a lot of spirit to it, something that a lot of bands like the Rejects don't seem to give.
Did I mention I love the cover art for this album? The singles, too.
As an earlier album of 2012, I'd say Kids in the Street is quite refreshing. I don't hate mainstream music, and personally a lot of my guilty pleasures in music were or are mainstream and not really all that original in terms of style. However, The All-American Rejects bring something to the table that is a lot different than previous works. It's just a fun album to listen to. It has all the hard hitters that they've had before and more, and it's something that you don't hear much of anymore. For a band to progress in this kind of way and change is rather respectable in my eyes. Even though the Rejects still have that pop anthem sound like an aura around them. Tyson, Nick, and the rest of the band have really grown from their straight out of high school days making music about girls and love and progressed into a land where it's alright to be young.
I'd give it a listen if you're open to all types of music. I know people who like heavier music probably won't like something like this, and that's fine. This album really grew on me, and it's just something that is enjoyable to listen to and has all the kicks of a good time. It's just straight up good fun, and for what its worth, it gives a better name to some of the more popular music, although not much of it attempts to go in a direction that the Rejects have this time around. Tyson and friends are just here to remind us that while growing up and facing the world, it's alright to be a kid again.
-Mainstream Manifesto is here to tell you that even bad music needs love too.
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