Review Summary: The weekend had to disappear for these kids to steady the ship.
When singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens announced his "Fifty States Project" in 2003, music pundits worldwide hailed it as the most ambitious concept ever to grace the music industry. First there was 'Michigan' and then 'Illinois', but that is where Stevens stopped. Surely it could not have been difficult to conjure up an album on Utah; Mountains, Mormons and the Jazz falling short should have been sufficient fodder. Come 2009, it seemed that such an enterprise would be matched by Texan pop-punkers Forever the Sickest Kids, who decided to shoot for the stars by recording EPs dedicated to (insert drum roll here) "The Weekend". And because they were so giving, they would even include Friday! Unfortunately, these kids couldn't even get past Friday night, with a 'Hip Hop Chick' and 'Hawkbot' stopping them in their tracks. Oh well, at least they got 33% of the way through, where-as Sufjan only completed 4%.
For those unaware, Forever the Sickest Kids is a band that is really easy to hate. It's all there; hair product, goofy looks, bad fashion, derivative music & cringe-worthy lyrics aimed at teenagers. Yet, their debut LP 'Underdog Alma Mater' was ultimately a success. Filled with fun, catchy, bright & bouncy hooks, they redefined the art of being a guilty pleasure into being a shameful delight! Critics knew it would not be long until they slipped up and maybe it was best the Texans did so on an ill-fated trilogy of EPs, as it would serve as the required wake-up call heading into their all-important second album. As it turns out, the resultant self-titled release predictably attempts - and fulfills - to combine the best of both worlds, without falling to any treacherous lows.
Opening up strongly with lead single 'Keep on Bringing Me Down' and 'I Guess You Can Say Things are Getting Pretty Serious', false hope is given that the band may be able to emulate their previous surprising consistency. Containing a nice blend of what they do best - without taking any element too far - the opener utilizes an effective piano loop, prominent guitar and gang vocals, while the following cut showcases the group's multiple vocalists and ability to sincerely perform the fundamentally cliched lyrical theme of "We're at a crossroad because we're better friends than lovers". Most importantly however, both tracks are catchy, without fully succumbing to outright pop; the integral ingredient in the Kids' prior success.
The remainder of the album is unfortunately the proverbial mixed bag. Second single 'Life of the Party' will be most divisive; an electronic number where Forever the Sickest Kids look to have their 3OH!3 or Cobra Starship moment to get noticed. It is almost infuriatingly infectious though, a quality which cannot be said of other more synth-oriented tunes which litter the album's mid-section. Thankfully, the band do not approach the hip-hop style which sunk the EP and end this release on a relatively high note. The catchy & bouncy 'Summer Song' is followed by acoustic ballad 'Forever Girl', and then interesting closer 'What Happened to Emotion? (Killing Me)'; a cut which plays around with structure & sound to surprisingly effective results.
Arguably the term which is most befitting Forever the Sickest Kids' second LP is "steadying the ship". While not the most dreadful release of 2009, 'The Weekend: Friday' had more than enough concerning moments on it to suggest that the "weekend" had to disappear, and the working week needed to return quick smart. To that end, the Texan sextet are now back on solid footing. However, their next release will require a decision to be made: Are they going to hone the pop-punk/power-pop sound which initially earned them an audience, or are they going to take the high-risk/high-reward route and fully immerse themselves in the growing mainstream trend that is electropop? It will only be when that determination is reached that we will truly find out whether the lyrics of ‘Good Life’ are tongue in cheek or not. Let's just hope that the decision is not solely determined by which day of the week it is released on.
Recommended Tracks: Keep on Bringing Me Down, I Guess You Can Say Things Are Getting Pretty Serious & What Happened to Emotion? (Killing Me).