Review Summary: So Far, So Good... So Rated T For Teen
Think back to when you were in high school, back when you were angry about the state of the world, back when you wrote semi-vague lyrics about how you're fed up with the status quo and how it's not fair, and back when you would sulk around with your friends in a Limp Bizkit hoodie, drinking a can of Monster. The music that you listened to was much the same: loud, rebellious, raging against the machine, and maybe even trying to change the world.
This is much what it's like to listen to this album
Indeed, a common criticism of the songs here are that the lyrics sound as if they were written by a 14 year old boy; and with such gems as "I'm not anti-social, I'm anti-bull***" and "Stop the world, I want to get off", it's hard not to argue. Perhaps they are trying to be down with the kids (or whatever it is that people say these days), but the fact is that the maturity found on You Are We is gone. Whereas in You Are We, songs about humanity, the direction that the world is going in, and modern society were driven and focused, there almost seems to be a lack of focus and direction here. When each song in You Are We had a clear theme to it, songs like Elephant contain lyrics like "There's an elephant in the room" and "We all hide something". What are we hiding and what is this elephant in the room exactly? It is difficult to say. The music video is not much help either, because it seems to scroll through every single problem that society today faces. Haunt Me is another example of this, with the line "Don't say you didn't see this coming, now the world's in disarray." What exactly is coming and how has it led to the world being in disarray?
The energy has also changed from one of protest on You Are We to rebellion on So What, aptly reflecting the frustration of the youth. Maybe these changes are to widen the mass appeal (as mentioned before), which is understandable in the modern day music industry, but while they may gain some younger fans, they may lose some long term fans in the process.
But criticisms aside, there are pros to being a teenager (and to this album). The direction is more towards melody with less screaming, as is common for metal bands on their fifth record, but I personally don't think that this takes away from the music. Plus there is a lot of energy, even if it doesn't seem to really go anywhere. There is even some emotion to be found here. You do get the sense that they are making a real effort, leading up to a climax of emotion at the end, which is a theme in most songs here. Again rather aptly for the teenage theme, many songs on the album are much like pleasuring yourself: furious effort for two or three minutes, followed by an emotion-filled climax. The angrily screamed and drum-backed line "Thank *** for headphones!!" in Anti-Social and the groovy guitar at the end of Elephant as "We all hide something" is alternately screamed and sung come to mind here.
The album is also fairly consistent. I've Seen It All probably has the most direction and focus on it and is clearly a stand out track. Back Of My Mind is the closest to the type of energy that While She Sleeps are capable of (despite the rapping at the end, which doesn't really work). And So What is pretty close to awesome. It's just a shame that the singles don't really match up to them. The musicianship is very good as always and thankfully, this part of the music is very consistent all the way through, unlike the lyrics which appear to be semi-vague with the occasional clever line here and there, such as "I wouldn't have to stab you in the back if you would turn and face me" and "The ground we walk is sacred but the grave we make is closer to hell." It's a clever tactic if they're aiming for people with short attention spans. But ultimately, it feels like While She Sleeps is shouting their frustrations at a wall, because it probably sounds good to them and I'm sure it's a cathartic release, but to the rest of us it's mostly meaningless.
When all is said and done, this album is much like the teenage cohort that one could argue it is aimed at: loud, rebellious, semi-vague with what it's saying, apathetic in name, and making a real effort towards an emotional climax. All that needs to happen now is for While She Sleeps to metaphorically lose their new found virginity to a metal goddess and the heavy maturity that we all know and love them for will return with a vengeance. Let's just hope that it's not teenage vengeance, because that's a lot less pleasant and a lot more difficult to clean up.