CD Review of When the World Comes Down by All American Rejects
All American Rejects: When the World Comes Down
Recommended if you like
Switchfoot, Fastball, Hoobastank
Label
Interscope
All American Rejects:
When the World Comes Down

Reviewed by R. David Smola

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I
s there anything really wrong with some really saccharine-soaked, occasionally whiny, but really well-done power pop? Absolutely not, and the All American Rejects’ third effort, When the World Comes Down, is 45 minutes of some pretty good stuff. No, this is not a five-star record or even a four-star record, but it is good – absolutely, positively good. There is no "Dirty Little Secret" or "Move Along" or other runaway hit on this record even though "Gives You Hell" was a top 10 success. Instead, the boys are trying to expand their sound a bit, even flexing an artsy side by breaking out some strings, a recorder on a couple of tracks, a pedal steel, and some broomstick (yes, Tyson Ritter is credited as playing broomstick on "The Wind Blows").

Producer Eric Valentine (Smash Mouth, Maroon 5, Good Charlotte) turns up the Glen Ballard factor and over-glosses every track on the record by turning up the background vocal choruses and adding strings and other instruments everywhere. Everything is over the top in regards to the arrangements; at times, it’s just too much. Tyson Ritter’s Nik Kershaw vocal range sounds good on this material, but these giant arrangements occasionally distract from his performance. "Mona Lisa" is the exception to this general rule – it features a pleasant acoustic guitar riff, some well-placed eloquent and understated piano, and Ritter’s vocals, providing a welcome contrast to most of the rest of the record.

The All American Rejects know what they are -- a good power pop band -- and they tinker within the formula to serve up a nicely controlled smorgasbord within the genre. "Fallin’ Apart" borrows the vibe (but not the riff) of Dexys Midnight Runners’ "Come on Eileen" by featuring a great violin part that, although classically played, feels ‘fiddle’ like. "Damn Girl" toys with the loud-soft-loud formula as a tale of heartbreak unfolds and Ritter observes, "When I’m inside, there’s no room for me," which is as poetic as it is icky. The stadium rawwker "Gives You Hell" will be a sing-along at shows, but the best moment on the album is the Evanescence feel created as Ritter duets with Catherine & Allison Pierce of the indie-folk flavored the Pierces on "Another Heart Calls." Their voices mesh very well as the song eventually builds to include a chunky guitar riff, some beautiful strings, and a background chorus featuring plenty of oohs and ahhs. As ambitious as the song (and the record in general) is, it comes off as pretty and sincere.

This isn’t going to make one of those "best album of the decade" lists, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have merit and isn’t entertaining. When the World Comes Down is a testament to the band’s acknowledgement of what they are, and their desire to stretch a bit within that context without scaring away their audience. Good for them, and for us. More restraint in the production may have yielded an even stronger effort.

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