Review Summary: 50% Bowling For Soup, 50% American Hi-Fi, 100% uninteresting.1 of 1 thought this review was well written
Do you like Bowling for Soup? What about American Hi-Fi? If the answer to one or both questions was ‘yes’, then you’re going to like FM Static.
I could end the review here, since describing FM Static is as simple as that. The sound on Critically Ashamed
is an exact blend of BFS’s bouncy, cheeky punk-pop with American Hi-Fi’s slightly more grown-up brand of radio-rock, with little to no originality to be found. However, for the sake of argument, I will try to press on and write a few more paragraphs about the band’s sophomore effort.
The only semi-original part of this album is the intro, where we hear a little kid phone her “Uncle Trevor” to wish him luck for the rock show. This brief piece works because: a – it’s delivered by a real kid, rather than one of those gratingly precocious ‘media children’; b – it’s obviously taken from a real phone call or answering machine, since the girl makes the amateur mistake of speaking with her mouth too close to the mouthpiece, causing her heavy breath to come through on the other side. All in all, a nice little ditty that gets us interested in what’s to come, but which is itself ripped off from another band, specifically Saliva, whose introduction to Superstar II
was quite similar.
manages to keep that interest high for a while, until we realize that it’s basically a poor carbon copy of Bowling for Soup’s 1985
. Everything in this song is a complete pastiche of that other one, from the leisurely mid-tempo to the constant retro references and namedropping, to the overall “the 80’s rocked and today sucks, maaaaan!” message. Oddly, both songs complain about how MTV is no longer about music, and both do it on the chorus. Guess this really is a big issue for children of the 80’s.
And this leads us to another peculiar feature of this album: for such an unabashedly poppy band, FM Static sure are critical of the pop-rock medium. No less than three songs talk about this, and everyone and their mothers gets namedropped. Michael Jackson, Richard Simmons, the Beach Boys (twice!), Mick Jagger, the Backstreet Boys, Fred Durst, Slipknot, Britney Spears, Jay Leno and William Hung all get references and sometimes pointed zingers. Flop Culture
brings us the best of these (”when William Hung and music still had no relation”, “Britney should’ve never covered ‘Satisfaction’”
), but America’s Next Freak
does not go to waste either, with its shout-out to ”the man with the plan and the corduroys/who just brought back the Backstreet Boys”
. The Video Store
even has some good non-celebrity-related lines, such as ”I fall apart/’Cause you’ve got a late charge on my heart/If it’s all right with you/We’ll meet in the ‘previously viewed’”
, topping it all off with a reference to ”my man Fred Durst/who did it all for the nookie”
. Overall, this may be the band’s strongest point, and the only one which manages to raise the occasional eyebrow and/or chuckle.
Unfortunately, nice lyrics are nothing without good songwriting behind them, and this is where the band really falters. Among the twelve tracks, there is hardly one that manages to raise attention beyond its lyrics. As noted, Flop Culture
is nothing but a 1985
rip-off, while America’s Next Freak
is too reminiscent of what American Hi-Fi presented on The Art Of Losing
. In general, the songs are merely bland and nondescript, with choruses that try their best to leave a mark, but mostly fail. As for lyrics, when the group is not crafting clever one-liners at the expense of pop celebrities, they choose to write juvenile love songs (The Video Store
) or, alternatively, bludgeon us with a less-than-subtle Christian message (Six Candles
But the real offenders here are the slow tracks. They’re the kind of dismal attempts at pop-punk “ballads” that no band but Green Day should even think about. Even closer Moment of Truth
, whose all-acoustic format garners attention for a second, suffers from being excessively sappy. But the real offender is Tonight
, an absolutely putrid concoction of radio-friendly cheese which treads dangerously close to Nickelcreed territory. The other slow tracks rank alongside the more bouncy tempos as merely being bland and unnoticeable.
Overall, then, Critically Ashamed
suffers from being extremely derivative and mostly quite uninteresting. If this had been a debut album, I would have said this band had potential – after all, there are good songs, good bass playing and a couple of fun lyrics throughout the record. But as a sophomore outing, Ashamed
is very weak. The rating, this time around, is not due to bad musicianship or outright bad songwriting; it’s just the extreme lack of interest of it all that keeps it firmly below the positive line. McNevan and Augustine went on to release another album, Dear Diary
, just out this year. After three years’ work, I certainly hope it’s better than this, their last effort. Not recommended.
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