Following on from a string of EPs and their 2008 debut LP, ‘Underdog Alma Mater’, Dallas six-piece Forever The Sickest Kids return with their eponymous second album, taken with mixed results. Kicking us off with lead single ‘Keep On Bringing Me Down’, it’s easy to see why the band are currently getting a good amount of radio airplay across the pond. The chorus, however, seems to be a cleverly appropriated mixture of Paramore‘s ‘Misery Business’ and Avril Lavigne‘s ‘Complicated’. Perhaps no one else has noticed this, but they seem to be getting away with it – the cheeky little monkeys – so fair play to them.
The first eight seconds of third track ‘Life Of The Party’ echoes some sort of Saturday night club anthem, before leading into the groovy electronic mish-mash of the verse. I’m almost ashamed to say I danced to it. ‘Robots & Aliens’ returns us to radio-friendly pop-punk, and it’s pretty obvious that this is music for a sixteen year old girl. If I was one then yes, I’d probably be wanking all over it too, yet even as a twenty-two year old boy-man with a beard, I actually kind of like it.
A third of the way through then, and FTSK might just be sucking the non-believers in. Unfortunately they manage to follow this with a couple of neither-here-nor-there songs, the common theme seeming to be lead singer Jonathan Cook‘s longing for the unattainable with lyrics such as “If I was King, King King for a day / I’d make, make, make you my Queen” (King For A Day) and “I want the good life, bright lights, fortune and fame” (Good Life). The middle of the album, in fact, seems to be a selection of catchy tunes hindered by bland lyrical content. It’s a matter of opinion whether ‘Bipolar Baby!’ is a cleverly-worded musical assessment of a serious mental health condition, or utterly ridiculous piss-take, but what’s certain is that the “baby” (woman) in question certainly doesn’t come out of it looking good. And what’s more, I’ve got a funny feeling she’s not even bipolar at all. She’s “bi-winning”.* Ahem…
After the acoustic guitar/strings combination of ‘Forever Girl’, the token ‘mellow song’ which is not too dissimilar musically, if not lyrically, to Green Day‘s classic ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’, the record ends fairly strongly with the anthemic ‘What Happened To Emotion? (Killing Me)’. Here we have arguably the stand-out track on the album, and one that perhaps hints at a bigger and more mature sound to come for the band as they grow and develop.
The problem with FTSK at present is not that they’re a bad band as such. In fact, this is a slickly-produced album with three or four potential radio hits in tow. No, it’s more the fact that there are dozens, nay, hundreds of American bands who will neatly file under the power-pop-punk category, with very few having the quality or the originality to set them apart from the rest. Listen through this album a few times though and there’s enough to suggest that while not exactly breaking boundaries with their music, FTSK may just be one of the lucky ones.
* – Unless you have been following Charlie Sheen‘s recent drug-fuelled ramblings, this will make absolutely no sense whatsoever.
Written by Matthew Frederick