Review Summary: Somewhere in between alt-rock and pop-punk, American Hi-Fi find a frequency which has all the hooks you'd expect, and a little bit more to boot.
You can almost tell how bad Fight The Frequency
is from its title - that same pseudo-rebellious vague anti-brainwashing bullsh
it that pop-punk bands have been peddling for years now - and its title-track doesn't do it any favours, either. Let this be a lesson to you: track listing matters. Granted, not as much as getting rid of the mediocre material on your record - of which here 'Fight The Frequency' is the only example - but still, a cursory listen of American Hi-Fi's new album is likely to be coloured by that first impression, unless you're endowed with superhuman patience. That's a shame, though, because the simple truth is that after track 1, Fight The Frequency
is good. Really good.
To say that the band which brought us 'Flavor Of The Weak', 'The Break Up Song' and Superman Returns' very own 'The Rescue' have done it again
would be to imply that they've done it in the past, which is not really true unless 'it' refers to the creation of an inconsistent, juvenile and awkward release with some very pleasing high points. But 'it' doesn't refer to that, because Fight The Frequency
is different; it's slick, assured and interesting, and it honestly takes a few listens to sink in
. Pop-punk that's not immediate? Well, really, the way this albums comes across you'd have to call American Hi-Fi an alt-rock band in their own right, and although they still don't break any new ground, this is their best album yet.
The nostalgic/anthemic duality is still present in both melody and lyric, but here it's compounded by a sort of atmosphere, a less tangible quality formed by the mainstays of the band's sound. If that sounds mysterious or weird, it's not, since the band's aesthetic comprises guitars which are two or three notches off clean and Stacy Jones' vocals, ever-so-slightly nasal but with that dash of gravel which implies he knows exactly what he's doing all of the time. The somewhat unpredictable musicianship hooks onto these aspects to form the makings of an album which sits halfway between rock and pop in a place many bands pass through but where few manage to sit still.
Not every song on Fight The Frequency
sounds the same, though, and there are heavier and lighter tracks dotted throughout its runtime. But they're not the token ballad or hard-number you come to expect from mainstream rock bands, instead marrying natural ideas to slight tangents; 'Frat Clump' is a song with undeniably heavy guitars and a surprise in the form of screamed vocals, distorted to render the whole feeling of the track frantic and panicked; 'Where Love Is A Lie' is the sort of song that makes me want to mention how 3/4 of American Hi-Fi have been touring with Miley Cyrus, but in a good way. It's a poppy track which makes no bones of its accessibility but still manages to maintain that element of sincerity that doesn't wane throughout.
There's not much more to say about Fight The Frequency
, really, except that it's a surprise. By all accounts, 2005's Hearts On Parade
was somewhere in between disappointing and atrocious, but the band's 2010 output doesn't just stand up will in comparison to past failures, it also exists as a consistent and fairly compelling release in its own right. It's sometimes one wrong word away from cliché, and it's never experimental, but there's intriguing guitar work, unpredictable structures and incredible hooks galore. It's not likely to break your top 10 of the year, but the slight sense of puzzlement and surprise when closer 'Tiny Sparks' bursts into a euphoric solo out of nowhere is reason enough to pick up Fight The Frequency
, and there's plenty more where that came from.