Review Summary: What happens to a redhead in the summer sunshine.
With singles charts becoming less relevant with each passing year, some strange occurrences are now prone to take place. One such happening is We The Kings' 'Check Yes Juliet' spending 17 consecutive weeks in the Australian top 50. What is so strange about this? It's still there... more than three years after its initial release. Riding on the back of an early 2011 tour and an advertising campaign for a local reality show, it seems that many Aussies have belatedly begun to enjoy the Floridian quartet's early pop-punk stylings. Those that delve deeper and listen to their energetic and likeable self-titled debut LP will undoubtedly be pleased with the consistent serving of irresistible hooks, tight musicianship, sincere lyrics and sleek vocals. Unfortunately, that album was released almost four years ago, and at a time when We The Kings should be reaching their peak, they now deliver their poorest release to date in third LP 'Sunshine State of Mind'.
To cut to the chase, not one of those aforementioned qualities prevalent on their debut is present here. This is very much a different band to the one who took us to 'Skyway Avenue' and pleaded with us to 'Stay Young'. With the opening two tracks both beginning with acoustic guitar, it also confirms that all notions of We The Kings being a pop-punk band have been dispensed with. The cheesy lovey-dovey lyrics of opener 'Friday Is Forever' reminds heavily of The Academy Is...'s disappointing 'Fast Times at Barrington High', which should not surprise since both albums were produced by S*A*M & Sluggo, the genuises behind Metro Station's 'Shake It'. Containing what is likely the catchiest chorus on the record, successor 'Say You Like Me' contains a light, airy vibe that hints at the type of reggae-tinged pop that Bruno Mars has made successful of late. It's too bad that its absurd "Woh Wohs" almost sink the song.
To this point in their career, the strongest component of We The Kings had undoubtedly been Travis Clark's effortlessly charming vocals. Here, they cross the line into unconvincing laziness, with the flame-haired frontman's performance suggesting he had somewhere else to be. Clark's attempts to inspire on piano ballad 'The View From Here' and strings-laden closer 'You and Only You' are in fact uninspiring, while he struggles to match his band-mates attitude when they finally break out of their slumber on energetic throwback 'Kiss Me Last'. There is thankfully a late infusion of energy as the album proceeds, with 'The Secret to New York' getting the balance about right in a safe and inoffensive way. However, even that does not always turn out for the best as can be heard on the excruciating - and creepy - 'Sleep With Me', which comes off like the bastard step-child of the aforementioned 'Shake It' and a rejected cut from Weezer's 'Raditude'.
While detractors of the band will point to the slicker pop of We The Kings' sophomore release 'Smile Kid' as a sure sign of the quartet's decline, even that album was able to satisfy by consistently delivering upbeat hooks and catchy choruses. 'Sunshine State of Mind' has no such luck however, with very little sticking in the mind at all. A handful of tracks may be deemed passable in isolation, but turn to bland, forgettable pop-rock mush when lumped together into this ten track package. What is even sadder is that We The Kings fail to achieve the summery feel-good vibe which everything from the album title, cover, lyrics and music suggests was the intention. In fact, it is extremely telling when the best song is a bonus track fittingly titled 'Summer', a cut which is exactly the type of sound that should have been used as a template for 'Sunshine State of Mind'. But hey, you know what happens to a redhead in the summer sunshine.
Recommended Tracks: (Summer), Say You Like Me & Kiss Me Last.