Boys Like Girls/Inkwell

Boys Like Girls | Boys Like Girls (Red Ink/Columbia)

Inkwell | These Stars Are Monsters (One Eleven Records)

So which is better, a by-the-numbers bit of the same-old-same-old that hits all the right notes, or an album that aspires to be much more and occasionally misses the mark? That, I'm afraid, is up to you.

 

 


Given the current musical landscape, it's hard to believe that "emo" was once a term used to describe bands like Rites of Spring, Fugazi, and Sunny Day Real Estate. Now, the word is more or less synonymous with pop-punk, only all the songs are about how much girls suck instead of how much the government/society/your parents suck, where every album ends with an acoustic ballad and you're guaranteed to hear the word "faded" rhymed with "jaded" at least once. This, of course, doesn't necessarily mean that there's no experimentation or boundary pushing being done in the world of emo, but that separating the wheat from the chaff is growing more difficult.

Boys Like Girls most definitely fall in the more traditional emo category. Discovered by the men behind similar acts such as Taking Back Sunday, My Chemical Romance, and Panic! at the Disco, the Boston area quartet blends the hooky, new wave-influenced pop-punk of All-American Rejects with the catchy, guitar-driven punk-pop of Fall Out Boy-admittedly, not a big stretch. While definitely not an album for everybody, it could easily be all the rage of the high school set, packed with amped-up guitars and enough hooks to pack a coat closet. "Learning to Fall," in particular, has the kind of grand, burrow-into-your-head chorus that Avril Lavigne pays Butch Walker bags full of cash for, and "Dance Hall Drug" tries to widen the group's reach with a jaunty cadence reminiscent of some of Panic!'s finer moments. Whether Boys Like Girls is your kind of thing depends mostly on whether you find lyrics like "This is how I feel/ And it's so, so real" (from the single "Hero/Heroine") or "Who said that it's better to have loved and lost?/ I wish that I had never loved at all" ("Up Against the Wall") to be melodramatic cheese or so you.

The two-man band Inkwell takes a different, more musically adventurous path than Boys Like Girls, but does different necessarily mean better? Your mileage may vary. The songs on These Stars Are Monsters offer a hint of the best of many different bands, from the angsty screamo of Thursday to the constant tempo shifts of Hey Mercedes. "No You Drop It" even offers a little bit of Mates of State-style synth pop, where plodding drums are paired with a lilting, "bop-ba-DA-da" vocal hook. The album hits its peak with the awkwardly titled ballad "Pink? No No No…What About Whimsical?" where gently strummed acoustic guitars and hushed vocals are paired with a twinkling music box, eventually exploding into a shower of crashing cymbals and electric guitars.

The main problem with These Stars Are Monsters is that, while Inkwell is light years ahead of Boys Like Girls in the lyric department, the lyrical structures can be repetitive to the point of being grating; "Drop It," for example, only repeats its hook "Let's burn out/ On the eastside/On the eastside" a half dozen times, but with the placement of those repetitions, it feels like it could be a hundred. Is this enough to drag down the album as a whole? Hardly. For every song where Travis Adams and Dave Pierce overplay their hand, there's a counterpoint that hits it just right. The album closer, the painfully named "We Are the Captains of the Sea, Just You and You and You and Me," even beats Boys Like Girls at their own game, showing that even though they aspire for more, Inkwell can still construct a pop-punk anthem that pairs a chugging riff with a massive, memorable hook.

So which is better, a by-the-numbers bit of the same-old-same-old that hits all the right notes, or an album that aspires to be much more and occasionally misses the mark? That, I'm afraid, is up to you.

RIYL: All-American Rejects, Fall Out Boy, writing heartbroken poetry on your LiveJournal, Jimmy Eat World, Hey Mercedes, Death Cab for Cutie

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply