Review Summary: Progress just to regress.
Prior to the release of White Lies
, LoveHateHero underwent a massive lineup change. With new members and the daunting task of writing a sophomore record the California post-hardcore group did the unthinkable: they found an identity; crafted a superb record; and even encountered a breakout success of sorts. After finding such triumph in a predicament like that writing a follow-up should have been a piece of cake. Instead LoveHateHero decided to abandon just about everything that once made them appealing. America Underwater
finds the group attempting to smooth their edges down and craft a poppy, hook-driven record in the process. The result is both underwhelming and disappointing, as listeners are left with a half-hearted, lazy and an overall mess of a record.
The opening track, “Sinners and Saints,” immediately introduces LoveHateHero’s change of sound. Gone are the aggressive guitar riffs, the sporadic screams and the up-tempo, passionate musicianship; in their place are a collection of lifeless chord progressions, half-hearted vocals and appalling hooks. The guitar lead near the end of the song sounds terribly out of place and overall the group seems to have lost any sense of songwriting ability. Being as they practically dumped their musicianship for a chance to write more simplistic, mainstream songs this proves problematic. “America Underwater” is a horrible attempt at a hit single. The title track lacks any sort of genuine soul and its pseudo-inspiring softer section is laughably atrocious.
Aside from lackluster songwriting, the group has also lost track of their identity. During the record LoveHateHero latch onto many gimmicky aspects of the pop-punk genre. “Think Twice (Running With Scissors Part II)” takes a polar opposite direction than its counterpart from White Lies.
While the initial song was an adoring cry of concern directed toward a family member on drugs, the follow up comes off as half-hearted. Its poppy nature and dreadful line “It’s as easy as one, two, three l-o-v-e/light up and forget everything,” shows the overtly juvenile tones and themes present on the record. No song reveals LoveHateHero’s new target demographic better than “Pants Off Dance Off.” Filled with sampled drums, a disgraceful attempt at a bouncy guitar groove and more atrocious lyrics, the Cali-natives seem to have their sights set on landing onto every 13-year-old’s party mix. The song is so horrendous even a guest spot from Trace Cyrus would not do the trick.
Even amidst the many faults present, LoveHateHero is still capable of creating strong tunes. On American Underwater
, however, they are few and far between. One of the earlier tracks released, “Echoes,” brings a much needed dose of adrenaline to the record. Its faster tempo, strong progressions and edgier guitar tone allows its chorus to work effectively. The breakdown, however, sounds very out of place and represents a lazy alternative to creating a more intricate section that the group is capable of. Even with most of the record putting a sour taste in the mouth of listeners, “Too Little Too Late” closes things off properly. The band focuses more on crafting a good song as opposed to a good hook and things benefit tremendously. Guitar riffs flow effortlessly throughout the tune and the intense pre-chorus screaming section is a highlight of the record. In both the aforementioned songs, the group succeeds by sticking to what worked for them in the past. LoveHateHero, unfortunately, seems more focused on getting a spot on MTV2’s top 10 than writing a record up to their capabilities.
At the end of the day the pure laziness and underwhelming efforts present on America Underwater
are its greatest flaws. The record, for the most part, is a collection of mediocre songs shoved together by a talented group of musicians. LoveHateHero has a great deal more talent and ability to create memorable music than what is displayed here. In hopes of writing a more accessible record the opposite has ironically happened. Their third full-length record sparingly has a memorable moment and is typically devoid of excitement. By polishing their tunes around the edges and lowering themselves down to the level of the contemporary pop-punk scene, the quartet has attempted to embrace a new style and completely flopped in the process. America Underwater
makes a once confident and powerful group seem lost, confused and altogether irrelevant in their constantly shrinking genre.