Review Summary: Too much change can be a terrible thing
Attack Attack! have frequently found themselves as the target of mockery from the "hardcore" community, as well as reviewers such as Anna Pickard, of the UK newspaper, The Guardian. Their style has been mockingly called "crab-core" and their vocalist, Austin Carlile, left before the recording of Attack Attack! That said, AA! were fighting an uphill battle before their album was even in pre-production, even making their synth player, Caleb Shomo handle vocals as well as the synth. While Shomo had done some death growls on Someday Came Suddenly, he hasn't yet mastered screamed vocals yet, and it shows on the album.
Shomo must have drawn the short straw at the writing session, because he also had to do the pre-production on the album. This gave him more creative control over the band. Bad move- Shomo, who had included a DJ Club (his techno side project) song, Interlude, on Someday Came Suddenly, has included more electronically focused music on AA!. Examples include the track, "Shut Your Mouth," featuring McSwagger and a host of lyrics pertaining to McSwagger- possibly the worst ones on the album- and Lonely, which features a two minute dubstep sequence at to close the album. These songs, as well as Fumbles O’Brien, are the low points of the album and feature a heavy dose of Autotune in each.
While some have found effective ways to use Autotune (T-Pain, I See Stars), Attack Attack! seems to be using it not for self- improvement but as a joke. This is best shown in Fumbles when the song effectively stops and backing vocalist Andrew or John, I’m not sure which, croons, “Shawty, you on my mind (yeah yeah)/ Shawty, all of the time (yeah yeah).” Those 30 seconds made me want to rip my CD in half until I realized I hadn’t purchased the CD and that the CD wasn’t to be released for another 3 days.
While there are a fair amount of negatives on this album, it’s not entirely bad. The lyrics have improved- only slightly, but it’s still better than pretending to be a preachy Christian outfit, as it felt on SCS, particularly Shred White and Blue- and Shomo is truly not a terrible vocalist. His growls on AC-130 are particularly admirable, almost as admirable as the song being a very good, 90-second long breakdown. The bass, while usually inaudible, sometimes adds a punch that elevates a section from “meh” to “hey, that’s kinda cool.” The guitar work is never really tech, and often takes a backseat to Shomo’s synth, which fits the album well, but songs where the guitars and keys complement each other- Sexual Man Chocolate, with its spiraling synth line and muted power chords is the best example- are among the best on the album. Lines like “No honor, No respect,” and “You’re better off dead,” are sure to incite mosh pits live and catch the ear on the record.
All in all, Attack Attack! is weighed down from being a really good album by too much needless programming and attempted hooks, a la ADTR. Fumbles is a victim of both, the hook is, “Oh my love, I was never meant to fill your gut/and oh I can still feel you forever/Cause I'm not your knight in shining armor/A man that you might call for every day,” and it falls flat every time it is said. I Swear I’ll Change is also a victim of a poor attempted hook. Attack Attack! are at their best when they abandon the clean vocals and just let loose with the guitars and give their drummer, Andrew Wetzel, some room to operate. Wetzel feels like he was caged on this album after being given room to roam free on SCS. Ultimately, half of this album is really solid and the other half belonged on the cutting floor, and it shows.
Recommended Tracks- Renob, Nevada, AC-130, Sexual Man Chocolate
Consider- A for Andrew, Smokahontas