Review Summary: Catchy songs, but borrows too much from its predecessor.
Released in 1996, this was Tempe-based band the Gin Blossoms' third album and second major-label album. Mainstream pop fans will be content with this record, while hardcore fans will find it barely enough to satisfy, and at times little more than a copycat of their previous work (1992's New Miserable Experience).
It should be noted that this was the band's first album without group co-founder Doug Hopkins, the prodigy behind the success of their 4x platinum (major-label) debut New Miserable Experience. Hopkins wrote, not co-wrote, but WROTE, both "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You", their first two big hits. It can also easily be said that he was responsible for the quality of of the songs he DIDN'T write. If one were to listen to the single "Until I Fall Away" from that album, they'd see that the song falls apart without Hopkins's jangly, floaty style on lead guitar.
Hopkins was fired from the band shortly after the recording of New Miserable Experience, and committed suicide in 1993.
Scott Johnson was recruited as Doug's replacement. There's no doubt the band were nervous about making this record. Not sure that they'd be able to replicate the geniusness of the previous album, they desperately brought in the producer of NME (New Miserable Experience), John Hampton. Other bands, like Blink 182, have used the same producer over and over before with success, but such attempts actually resulted in albums that sounded DIFFERENT from their predecessors. On CIS (Congratulations, I'm Sorry), the Blossoms use John Hampton as nothing more than a tool to try to recreate what was on the first album. Indeed, CIS breaks no new ground and some songs are almost exact duplicates of NME tracks (except not as good).
This album is a mix of rehashed NME material, a few good songs, and a few dreck songs. Casual listeners won't mind the less original songs, and will in fact be pleased by such tracks as "As Long As It Matters" and "Competition Smile" (loyal fans enjoyed these songs the first time around when they were called "Mrs. Rita" and "Until I Fall Away"). Casual listeners will also enjoy the bubble gum. The radio hit "Follow You Down", catchy as it may be, offers little aside from a good drum performance by Philip Rhodes. "Not Only Numb" is another example of this bubblegum,but is even worse, going nowhere fast as its slow opening riff evolves into nothing. But like I said, the bubblegum crowd will eat it up....excuse me, CHEW it up.
There's a few bright spots for fans, though. Some of the better songs on the album sound more like the old Blossoms, instead of some generic, bubblegum, garage act without completely copying their old material. "My Car" opens up fast and never lets off. It contains lots of passion and heartfelt lyrics about a young man taking a night drive 'round his hometown. The song is one of the more sincere songs on an album filled with contrived horse poop. It also contains some of the folksy, jangly guitar riffs listeners of their previous releases would be accustomed to...not to mention a pretty sweet guitar solo. "Whitewash" is another track to be commended. It was written by bassist and band co-founder Bill Leen, who had played in several bands with Hopkins before forming the Gin Blossoms in the late 80's. The lyrics aren't exactly Bob Dylan: "This night never happened if it's alright with you. Another photo collection of things we didn't do." Wow...that's not redundant at all. But it easily makes up for it with a rattling, driving bass line and great guitar work by both guitarists. The solo itself is very catchy and memorable, and could almost be a song itself! Once again, the Blossoms choose folk over bubblegum and win. Too bad they didn't go that route for more than 1/3 of the album.
This album isn't horrible, but lacks innovation most of the time. The band mostly plays it safe to try and convince the world that they're still the exact same band without Hopkins. The pop crowd will like it for its "sing along in the car" tunes, and fans will want it to complete their collection. For all its setbacks, it still gets a "3" because it's only bad compared to their previous works.