Review Summary: No monumental progress yet but it's no problem for now because Man Overboard just work, and man do they work well
12 more tracks to add to the already extensive library of Man Overboard songs... when you exclude all the acoustic/electric versions, the re-recordings and the live album, that's around 50 songs so far. Few songs Man Overboard have written are anything less than good, and most weigh in at around the great mark - their self-titled album of 2011 is no different.
Man Overboard stick to the formula they know functions so well, polish it a little bit more and, voila, here we have their sophomore release. And it showcases everything they stand for - pop punk is NOT
dead, it would seem, and there's nothing to hate in this 12 track pleasure. Man Overboard have never claimed to be too serious a band (this is clear from their live performances when 'Montrose' changes from "this is so hard, this is so hard" to "this is so hard, I'm a retard"), yet I think it's fair to say they're being taken pretty seriously nonetheless. With this release they have further embedded themselves on the pop punk scene as they (rather successfully) "Defend Pop Punk
When I pre-ordered this album, I bought a bundle from merchnow, which included a 7" of Dead End Dreams
. The b-side to the 7" contains two tracks, No Drama
and Home Again
, which I've uploaded as mp3 files to my computer using a vinyl converter; I'd like to mention initially that these two tracks are the most prominent signs of experimentation Man Overboard has shown thus far. They're nothing wild but they look at different newer aspects in more focus that the album offers in smaller doses. No Drama
is their shortest song to date, clocking in at around 1:45, and is a fast little punk-reminiscent tune that sweeps you through without the risk of overdoing it. Home Again
is the opposite, and really toys with Zac and Nik's higher vocals. The song itself is more typical of Man Overboard yet the chorus still differs from what we're used to as it looks at a mixture of Zac & Nik's highs with gang vocals. This is what I think of as a big chorus. Home Again
also pulls in at 3:12, so is among their longest songs. Both b-sides encase something fresh and are arguably more extreme prototypes to some of the tracks among the final 12.
Okay, so onto the album itself. The core album (excluding b-sides and acoustic pre-releases from merchnow) is 33 minutes long, not outstaying its welcome at all. Short and sweet, and it's okay because Man Overboard are pretty on point and sharp with releasing music, so we're not waiting 2/3 years for the next half hour listen. The album bursts open (literally) with Rare
, one of their fastest songs to date, which lyrically is the opposite of last year's intro track; Zac and Nik back-and-forth their vocals the way we love to hear about something cute to do with a girl, lasting a pleasant 3:03. As a preview of the next 11 tracks, the lyrics are really sharp; Zac said on their tumblr once in answer to praise of their lyrics "I'm just callin' it like I see it", and as per usual this shines throughout. Their songs are more or less all to do with girls, and that's fine, because that's what we most like to hear.
Just past the classy classic Teleport
, track 3 leads on. Voted Most Likely
is a more interesting take on a (past) relationship - you should have listened to this album by now, or be in the process of it, so you'll know what I mean; "Meet me at the back door just so we can talk more / Now I'm asking myself what I broke your heart for". The song is just an incredibly catchy hook which I found myself singing while buying pizza in Iceland yesterday; this is among the most memorable tracks here on offer. The next song up is leading single Dead End Dreams
, which I believe was limited to 500 pressings on the 7", and is one of those rare moments when the focus switches from girls to something else (which here happens to be girls and life). There is a nice gang vocal point at the bridge which will go down a treat at their shows, and again the two vocalists play well with each other in harmonisation as the chorus opens. Something's Weird
is another sweet punky track that plays well into indie-rocker Punishment
One of the most notable songs on this record is Not The First
, and anyone who pre-ordered from Merchnow also owns an acoustic version of this song. Yet the electric version is completely different from the acoustic; while the acoustic is gentle and soft with an 'instrumental' halfway through, the electric is fierce and relentless and never gives up, and Nik has said that he considers this among their heaviest. The verses feature a nice hook but that's nothing on the chorus - the high vocals absolutely beam here and the harmonisation of the vocals is stunning.
subsequently keeps us rolling as Not The First
ends with a very speedy tempo, flowing like true punk, and ends at an appropriate 2:17. Any more would risk being a bit too much, and by keeping it short and pretty this once again shows Man Overboard's conceptualized understanding of their musicianship. Spunn
is another (that had a pre-release) that does well to show what this new album is all about - I'll add to this soon, just as Picture Perfect
puts in a calmer refreshing vintage atmosphere after the relentlessly enjoyable 24 past minutes. Night Feelings
, the penultimate track, firmly picks back up again, and what really intrigues me here is the lyrics - they're something a little different and I really love this, from the chorus "You can't get burned if you put out the spark". The lyrics here really apply to anyone who's struggled to handle moving on from a girl.
After the second chorus there's an indistinguishable line from a chunk not listed in the lyrics booklet/12" lyric sheet, so for anyone wondering, the entirety of the chunk is - "So let’s set it straight, cause you never know, if we die today you had me at hello / I swear I loved you, I know I throw that word around but I mean it" (I asked Zac on tumblr to clarify the 'had me at hello' section because I wasn't sure what was being sung).
That just leaves the final track, Atlas
. This song has a different feel and style to the rest of the album and offers itself lyrically to all those who feel awkward and lonely in society. The song plays out well but it's the only thing that leaves me feeling like something minute is missing - after 'Sidekick' last year, which really placed the emphasis on pop
punk, it's a slight shame to not have something like that here. It's the only real (albeit minor) criticism of the album that I have - it's no big problem though, because the last 33 minutes have been so... ravishing. Besides, with my b-sides and acoustics, I can brag that post-Atlas
I still have 10 minutes of Man Overboard left. Overall this year's offerings solidly stick to the honed formula that has functioned so strongly thus far.
Yet there are still signs of growth here. While 2010's Real Talk was inarguably a teenager's anthem (and surprisingly I don't mean that in a bad way at all, their debut was fantastic), their self-titled has shown definite signs of maturity, which is very promising. Especially from the intro and bridge in Spunn
to the retro feel of Picture Perfect
, this record just has a sound which I believe can appeal to a greater audience now than simply those with a teen heart. I think their next record could be quite interesting, as will any EPs/new songs released beforehand.
Lyrics wise - we know not to expect anything genius from this band, there's nothing to the grade of Tim McIlrath or Buddy Nielsen here, but arguably a factor that makes Man Overboard's music so charming is the basic nature of the lyrics, and the fact that most people can relate so well to them. They're not complicated and confusing, they are what they are, that is - lyrics easily connected to by all, that manage to help the listener feel better about his/her pertinent plights.
Production - 4.5/5
Polished production that finely displays both the vocal and instrumental work
Lyrics - 3.5
Basic, but pleasant, charming and relatable
Sound - 4
Stellar performance that is starting to show signs of maturity and progression
Replay Value - 4
There is nothing nasty on offer, all is sweet and catchy and thus highly appealing for re-listening
The latest offering from beastly New Jersey quintet Man Overboard is a solidifying statement in the pop punk world, proving their worth of respect and embedding them deeper into well-earned appreciation. I personally can't wait to see what they do next.