Review Summary: Small improvements upgrade the pop punk band from terrible to bad.
(insert paragraph about the lack of originality in modern music)
I don't need to restate what seems to be a fact about so much music today. That fact is that so many bands have little to no originality in their sound, so often copying/ripping off/imitating/etc. one (or more) bands. This seems to be true (much more than elsewhere) in the pop punk and metalcore genres, with tons of bands sounding exactly the same and beating to death a sound that might or might not have been good in the first place. While I'd love to say that Hawk Nelson sound different from the dozens of other pop-punk acts out there, it's not the case at all.
The band's debut was an extremely forgettable and at time torturous affair, with instrumentation both generic and boring, as well as Jason Dunn's terrible nasally voice. It accumulated a moderate amount of success in the Christian market, and two years later the band was back with Smile, It's the End of the World
With a quick wail of "Will someone please radio for help"!
", the record is off. "The One Thing I Have Left" is easily the best song on the album, with catchy guitar parts and an equally catchy chorus it borders on being good. Things will only go downhill from here, however.
The rest of Smile...
showcases small improvements from the band, mainly in how diverse the songs are compared to the more straightforward Letters to the President
. Dunn's nasally, slightly high-pitched whine is still less than tolerable for most of the album, but several high notes make short appearances, which sound much better than everything else. Each other band member is just as expendable as their singer - the guitars consist mainly of simple power chords and riffs, with equally simple leads making brief appearances in most of the songs. The drummer plays extremely standard fare, throwing in a semi-interesting fill here and there . The bassist only makes a couple of appearances to let the listener know he exists, and is otherwise drowned out by the guitar.
As for the songs themselves, most consist of the same guitar-driven pop punk you've heard from Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance (as well as the band's debut). Piano parts in "Something On My Mind" and "Zero" would
make both songs standout tracks, however "Zero" is ruined by a terrible spoken-word bridge that sounds both immature and awkwardly executed. Dunn's high notes which dominate "Fourteen" are easily the best vocal moments on the album, however that track is ruined when the intro is repeated into absurdity.
Still, much of Smile, It's the End of the World
manages to be catchy, and were it not for Dunn's irritating and nasally voice, it wouldn't be a pain to sing along with. While still bad, Hawk Nelson can at least be praised for progressing, bringing out a record a bit less predictable and straightforward than the debut. It's still bad, but at this point in their career one would have hope that the band's next record would be decent (or at least closer to that).
"I tried to be perfect/Tried to be honest/Tried to everything that you ever wanted"
The band has tried to do several things with Smile...
, but it fails to be anything besides catchy and an improvement over previous material. And when said past efforts are terrible, small improvements only elevate Hawk Nelson from awful to bad.
Download if you must:
The One Thing I Have Left
Something On My Mind