Review Summary: Nothing ground breaking, it's the pop-punk you used to love.
Even if you haven't listened to Man Overboard, chances are you have heard of their slogan, "Defend pop-punk". It's arguably more famous than any of their music, and there is a reason for that. Man Overboard aren't a bad band, but they have never done anything to stand out either. Their debut introduced fairly standard pop-punk music with three guitarists and two vocalists that showed glimpses of potential, whilst their follow-up self-titled was far less pop and heavier on the punk, and was a little disappointing. In the buildup to the release of their third full-length, Heart Attack, they promised that the growth would be evident.
The album opens strongly, with Secret Pain, a song unmistakably in the style of typical Man Overboard, and then Boy Without Batteries, which has pretty terrible lyrics, but is catchy enough to still justify its inclusion. These are followed by three of the strongest songs on the album. Where I Left You features the two vocalists, guitarist Zac and bassist Nic, trading off vocals in a song reminiscent of a more pop-orientated Taking Back Sunday. The title track is then followed by White Lies, the fastest song on the record up to this point.
While the first half of the record is fairly typically Man Overboard, and would have been at home on their self-titled, things soon change. Hoodie Song is one of the faster and heavier songs Man Overboard has ever written. With backing vocals that could be described as screamo-lite, and best indicates the change in pace the album undergoes halfway through. Open Season is similarly fast-paced, and is easily one of the better songs they have written, and features Geoff Rickley, formerly of Thursday.
They do, however, save the best song for last. Wide Awake is an acoustic number, usually a cliche closer. It is also about missing a girl, something Man Overboard wrote an entire album about (See their self-titled). This song avoids all those traps. It manages to be touching, catchy and well written. The chorus is sung as gang vocals and is strongly reminiscent of The Wonder Year's Living Room Song.
Lyrically the record still falls into classic Man Overboard traps. While many of the songs avoid being cringe-worthy, Boy Without Batteries has lyrics that are simply atrocious, including the lyrics "You want to see something creepy" Remember this" It spent six years in my drawer. It doesn't smell like you anymore." Meanwhile S.A.D. simply should not have made it onto the album, being one of the worst songs the band has made to date.
Despite these missteps, with Heart Attack, Man Overboard have created their strongest record to date. It's not flawless, the lyrics can be cliche, and they still don't really justify the three guitarists, but the songs are all incredibly catchy and they appear to have found the way to balance their most pop-orientated side with the faster songs they are so good at writing.
The sad truth is, it doesn't matter how good this album is, people will lap it up regardless. Man Overboard are never going to write an album with the ambition of The Greatest Generation, and they are comfortable with that. Heart Attack is an album that will allow them to continue to ride the revival of pop-punk.