Does the world really need another American punk pop band? Over in the good old USA there is a seemingly endless appetite for feisty guitar rock acts bashing out simple power pop songs about their high school crushes. The UK record buyer is a bit more cynical, although bands such as Blink-182 and Fall Out Boy have enjoyed the odd hit or two on these shores.
Hailing from Bradenton, Florida, We The Kings tick all the requirements on the punk pop checklist. Since forming in 2003 they have gone through several band members, gained a healthy Internet following with a series of independent releases, signed a major label contract, and seen their profile soar after placing songs on hit TV shows One Tree Hill and The Hills.
First released in America at the end of last year, the quartet’s self-titled major label debut finally makes its way over to the UK this month. In common with many bands of the same ilk, the album cues up its catchiest tracks first. Secret Valentine and Skyway Avenue whip by in a blur of layered guitars, pounding drums and half-shouted vocals, while the single Check Yes Juliet boasts the album’s most irresistible melody.
The trouble starts after this triple whammy. Stay Young is a more reflective track with lead singer Travis Clark dropping his vocal register a notch, with the result that he ends up sounding uncannily like James Bourne of Busted. Unfortunately, the slower pace exposes the generic nature of We The Kings’ music. These chord progressions and lyrics have been heard a thousand times before.
The same problem besets the album’s other mid-tempo tracks. Teenagers will love the sophomore lyrics of August Is Over and All Again For You, but anyone over the age of 20 will glaze over at the tales of breakups and lost first loves. And of course it is compulsory for every punk pop album to feature a piano ballad. The closing This Is Our Town serves that purpose on We The Kings, building up to a suitably over the top crescendo.
The remainder of the album comprises perfectly inoffensive three-minute power pop songs, about the best that can be said is that the playing is super tight and the melodies buoyant enough to allow an enjoyable half hour to pass by without too much distraction. Unfortunately, the line from Don’t Speak Liar sums up the appeal of We The Kings: “I know you’ve heard this before”.