Review Summary: You can almost hear the collective sigh of acne-infested teenagers.
When The Summer Set released a trio of EPs over the span of twelve months beginning in late 2007, the young Arizonan quintet were clearly living for the moment and having fun. Playing a simple and energetic brand of pop-punk, it was the usual hit and miss batch of songs that ranged from infectiously catchy to downright embarrassing. No-one thought that they could make the step up to a full-length release without stacking it with filler, so it came as a pleasant surprise as to just how consistently enjoyable the band's debut LP 'Love Like This' turned out. While it did not have the Grammy Awards calling for an appearance, their fans (read: kids) loved the fact that they could sing along to hooky tunes such as 'Chelsea', 'Young' and 'The Boys You Do (Get Back At You)'. Even relatively mature tracks like 'Passenger Seat' and the Dia Frampton assisted 'Where Are You Now?' weren't half bad… But could they have been the forerunner for The Summer Set getting just a little too far ahead of themselves on second LP 'Everything's Fine'?
Right from the get-go, you know this album will carry a different kind of vibe than their debut, with opener 'About A Girl' beginning acoustically and remaining at a methodical pace even when the full band kicks in. You can almost hear the collective sigh of acne-infested teenagers exclaiming "This ain't 'The Boys You Do'". Disturbingly, the acoustic guitar is used far too often on 'Everything's Fine', with The Summer Set becoming yet another group to jump on the reggae-pop bandwagon in an attempt to conform to current trends and appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Lead single 'Someone Like You', the gang vocal containing 'Thick As Thieves', the cheesy 'Mona Lisa' and the title-spelling, "Do Do Doo'ing" 'Love To You' all adhere to such a sound... Bruno Mars has a lot to answer for as far as this reviewer is concerned.
It is not that most of the tunes here are necessarily bad, it is just that too many of them fall into the categorization of inoffensive, relatively catchy, but ultimately forgettable mid-tempo power-pop... And even the "power" is a stretch many times, as the quintet appear to have forgotten that they contain two guitarists. Occasionally, they get the mix better in integrating their pop-punk roots with a newer outlook... 'Must Be The Music' and 'Begin Again' - the latter of which resembles the melody to Pink's 'Raise Your Glass' - are quite fun and catchy, while 'When We Were Young' and piano-driven closer 'Don't Let Me Go' are admirable attempts at maturity. Yet, only 'Mannequin' resembles anything close to memorable, with lead vocalist Brian Dales showing genuine passion in his otherwise weak, immature voice. As much as Dales may have improved, the lighter music evident here too often exposes his vocal limitations and he is simply incapable of successfully delivering what he is being asked to.
"Thought we were cool listening to Zeppelin, making out on the stairway to heaven" sings Dales on 'When We Were Young', while during 'Back To The Start' he proclaims "We were just kids". What do you mean "were" Brian? And are you listening to classic rock radio to even know who Led Zeppelin are? Guys, you are still young... Where did all of that youthful exuberance go? Sure, the album is a commendable attempt at maturity which suggests that the five-piece are unlikely to take their careers for granted. Unfortunately, 'Everything's Fine' is another example of a band attempting to grow up far too fast, and coming unstuck because of it. As an individual release, it is passable at best and immediately forgettable at worst. So everything is not, in fact, fine... And as the pseudo title track 'Begin Again' suggests; "If I crash, I'll begin again". Well, if The Summer Set practice what they preach, then maybe they will once more surprise us come time for their third LP.
Recommended Tracks: Mannequin, Don't Let Me Go & Must Be The Music.