Review Summary: If you can stomach very obvious 90s pseudo-alt influences, there's a lot of strong songwriting on offer. Many individual songs are satisfying, but the album as a whole is pretty lightweight, sadly.
So something I like to do while listening to albums is play some low maintenance video game during, to keep my hands and eyes busy while my mind and ears indulge in whatever is on Spotify. Right now, that game is Forza Horizon 4, which I find perfect to just throw on and relax while listening to or watching something else. But I figured, if I'm going to use this game as a conduit for listening to a new album entirely, it ought to be something you could listen to while driving in real life as well. So off the back of three of their songs being in the Rock Band Network (only one of which is on this album in particular), I decided to check out Megaphone, a Florida based bar/pop rock band whose singer works for Disney now, I'm pretty sure.
Said singer is Matt Bloodwell, formerly of punk band Precious, and he lists Foo Fighters as the band's closest musical analogue, which is probably off in general but absolutely suits him to a tee. His voice and melodic writing style could very much be described as a prettier Dave Grohl, or else a much less nasal sounding Kyle Stevens (Kirby Krackle). You can tell from listening to For Crying Out Loud he's aiming for a similar niche as both bands: Foo Fighters' mixture of accessible pop with gnarled post-grunge instrumentation and Kirby Krackle's mild genre hopping, and even their nerdcore fixations (more on that later).
That Disney factoid can explain a fair bit about the appeal of this band, actually. Even though their lyrics are pretty corny and sometimes use an unnecessary amount of swearing, the songwriting on offer is the main asset of Megaphone, in a generally satisfying, unoriginal but not hackneyed sort of way. You can easily draw comparisons in sound and style to bands like the Foo Fighters, Fountains of Wayne, Weezer, AC/DC, even Def Leppard on their more polished songs, but their choruses are mostly built on the same style of satisfaction and resolution without being too transparent about it. What attracts me most to their sound is that they use classical music theory, whether they're acutely aware of it or not, but it's never as blatant as recycling the four chords of pop or the twelve bar blues.
Naturally, this songwriting approach lends itself well to a no-frills but all thrills experience, and Megaphone certainly try to pack the thirty six minute running time with as many memorable moments and general fun as they can. Opening song Freak is a good index for what to expect; the verses are very standard and forgettable, a chugging rhythm made only to be heavy enough to get a drunk bar crowd in the mood, but the chorus absolutely crushes, with harmonies accenting in just the right places and bolstering the goofy lyrical premise which is basically a slightly more sanitary What's My Age Again. Similar results are achieved on Drama Queen, which targets a non-specific power pop niche and absolutely nails it despite some shaky lyrical choices, including an eye-roll worthy invocation of Carly Simon's You're So Vain.
Song by song, you can usually point to a specific band and say "that's where Megaphone got this sound from," and then look at how it varies to add a bit of flavour. Purple, true to its name, starts out like a slightly sludgier take on Stone Temple Pilots. Wasted is a slightly poppier take on Bush, with Def Leppard style call and response harmonies in the chorus that build towards the song's conclusion. Uncool is very much like any number of mid-90s pop/alt-rock act that tried to ironically tap into the everyman experience (think Shawn Mullins or Natalie Imbruglia). It's the songs that are a little harder to pin down that come off looking worse, unfortunately. Megaphone can write chorus hooks like nobody's business, but the rest of their songwriting suite isn't quite as strong, so the least memorable songs are the ones with little replay value.
Stain's chorus just feels wonky to me, and the wah-laden guitar does nothing to fill the void. The solo is incredibly unimpressive here, with the tapping section midway through coming off as so tryhard to cover the fact it's still very rote. Purple also moves too slow, and despite featuring the only instance of falsetto on the album does little to stand out. Combined, it makes for a very laborious middle act, and unfortunately Let Go, the final song on the album, is pretty ho-hum too. A full third of the album is completely forgettable as a result, and the nature of Megaphone makes the album a pure bubblegum listen as is, so not making every minute count exposes some serious flaws in the band's toolkit.
Two general problems also permeate much of the experience. The mix is strangely quiet. The guitar tones actually sound really good; gritty enough to rock, melodic enough to stand out, so when they make some groovy lead lines, they have this great pop to them. But a lot of songs, especially towards the back end, just mix everything too low. Cutting Room Floor seems to be affected the most, which is a shame as it's a damn good track, and probably the most purely original song on offer. It features an actively engaging set of break-up and reminiscing lyrics, with some good metaphors that evoke college dating days.
Which leads to my second general problem: most of the lyrics on this project are trite, and probably the one area where Megaphone legitimately cannot go toe to toe with their peers. Even on the great songs, such as Uncool and Drama Queen, a lot of it is either cornball or trying too hard to appeal to the demographic of the slightly awkward nerdy outcast, like a Weezer just out of tune with the zeitgeist. It just seems like a pose, like none of it comes from the heart, and is the one general area of the album that seems entirely manufactured.
But when it lands, For Crying Out Loud is at least as good as any number of Foo or Matchbox 20 albums. There isn't really any filler on here, even among some forgettable verses, but just songs that don't land nearly as well for one reason or another. But from songs with great driving rhythms like Drama Queen and Not Your Enemy, to more moody cuts like Cutting Room Floor and What's Her Name to an extent, it doesn't lack for satisfying moments. The band's mission statement on Facebook is to have live audiences still singing their songs on the ride home, and their knack for hooks cannot be understated, which is why I think they can match similar bands of the day. But their weaknesses, especially their lyricism, means they cannot exceed them, at least not yet.