Album Review: The All-American Rejects - 'Kids In The Street'

1 April 2012 | 9:46 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

The AAR take aim for an edgy sense of maturity but more often than not they miss the mark.

It has been four years since The All-American Rejects released their last album, When The World Comes Down, and three years since they unleashed single “Gives You Hell” into the airwaves. In that time the four piece found some new inspiration, experimented with maturity and played around with a variety of instruments. The result is Kids In The Street.

The album opens on a high with “Somebody’s Gone”. Scratchy, gritty guitar opens in a frenzy before pulling to make way for vocalist Tyson Ritter. His frequently off pitch vocals now a part of his character, sounding smooth with an edgy hint of grit. For the most part the instruments remain measured and steady, boppy with a nice rock edge. Small frenzied guitar and drum sections break through the steadiness at just the right time, filling it with attitude. This attitude becomes quirky and playful in “Beekeeper’s Daughter” with horns, sing along la di da's and big guitar solos to fill the track. It is the highest point of the album, and easily the catchiest tune, even if the song writing leaves much to be desired ("You're a pretty little flower, I'm a busy little bee, honey, that's all you need to see"). “Fast & Slow” keeps the catchy-but-edgy feeling going, this time bringing a dancey, synth element to the album. The track is subtle in it’s approach, urging you to bop and sing-along without really trying at all.

Unfortunately this is where the album’s excitement ends. Just as “Fast & Slow” builds up the mood and energy, leaving you expecting something big and exciting, that track that makes the album (see: “Swing, Swing”, “Move Along”, “Gives You Hell”) the sound completely pulls back. As the title suggests, “Heartbeat Slowing Down” takes the album’s energy down completely, as the band end their edgier, upbeat assault and instead head for composed maturity. For the most part it makes the middle section of the album daft and seemingly uninspired.

It isn’t until “Gonzo” where the band’s composure translates into a great track. Beginning softly, almost inaudible lyrics lead into the track before a steady bass drum defines the pace of the track. Slowly more instruments layer in creating a melodic, airy environment. The chorus signals the track to become more upbeat, while still remaining measured. As the track continues to grow the energy you have been waiting for is somewhat delivered, building into possibly the biggest track on the album. “Affection” brings the energy right back down again, only this time the restraint feels right. It is a sweetly, vulnerable, orchestral ballad, Ritter and the rest of the band leaving themselves bare. Without the cheesy, snide lyrics providing the backbone for their attitude, it is refreshing to hear AAR stripped back, not trying to hard to sound big, loud and rock n roll. On this record the softly smooth ballads, come in pairs, and album closer “I For You” is a great way to finish as simple guitar plucks provide the background for Ritter’s calmly directed performance. It is the most genuine, natural feeling track on the entire record, ending the album beautifully.

For the most part the album tends to feel somewhat uninspired, as if the band are trying too hard to sound ‘mature’ and edgy all the while still using teenage dramatics to create upbeat, chant along tunes. The battle between these two ideas is evident right throughout the record, especially in the middle section. It isn’t enough to create a record that starts well and ends well if there is no middle section to sustain the energy and hold the listener’s attention.

Overall the album is refreshing. The band have tried to move away from the straight up power pop they have created and inject some rock n roll into the mix. The addition of extra instruments also helps to make the sound fuller and layered and helps to rejuvenate the energy when it is lacking. However, for the most part the listener is left waiting for something big and exciting to happen and the moment never eventuates. Beginning fun, edgy and full of attitude, it quickly becomes dull, before ending beautifully. Nevertheless, AAR have moved forward with this release, showing that they are not grounded in power pop anymore. If only the middle section was removed.

1.  Someday’s Gone
2. Beekeeper’s Daughter
3. Fast and Slow
4. Heartbeat slowing Down
5. Walk Over Me
6. Out the Door
7. Kids in the Street
8. Bleed Into Your Mind
9. Gonzo
10. Affection
11. I For You