The new Disney generation must have been looking for a pseudo-punk rock band to soundtrack those slumber parties when the mood calls for something (very) slightly edgier than Hannah Montana or the Jonas Brothers. That’s where Boys Like Girls comes in, filling that bouncing, trite, overproduced power(less)-pop niche for preteens who like to complain to Facebook about how Sharon So-and-so’s a bitch, and how, OMG, Johnny Football is just never going to ask them to the dance.
On their second album Love Drunk, Boys Like Girls turn in one of the most formulaic, shiny, obviously over-processed, computer-enhanced rock ‘n’ roll albums in recent memory, though their defacto inclusion into the genre is something to cringe at. Are they boys who do like girls, or boys who are like girls? Either way, they’ve rechannelled their obvious influences here and cranked out one radio-ready nugget of pop-rubbish after another.
And no influence is more prominent here than Bon Jovi. Album opener Heart Heart Heartbreak is a blatant apery of the latter’s It’s My Life. They’re not even emulating Bon Jovi’s heyday, opting instead for what must have been blaring from their own stereos in their mums’ basements at high school parties.
Real Thing channels Billy Squier‘s The Stroke (and, if it’s possible, it’s even more obvious and heavy-handed in its delivery). Someone Like You is a ballad that could have been honest and engaging if it weren’t so plagued with clich�s. It’s positively begging to appear on an episode of Gray’s Anatomy. The two hot doctors who are crazy about each other finally kiss in the warm glow of an EKG machine, and Martin Johnson sings: “My life in the rearview, I’m running from Jesus. Don’t know where I’m going to. Got nothing to lose, I’m fighting my demons. I’ve been looking for someone like you.”
Any “punk rock” band whose album prominently features a duet with country-pop girl of the moment Taylor Swift has not got your best interests in mind. Where’s the anarchy? Where’s anything that means anything?” Swift and Johnson croon (auto-tuned subtly; here it’s not so much the T-Pain effect as it is a thinly veiled attempt to mask the fact that neither can hold a tune): “Maybe two is better than one,” and “You’ve already got me coming undone,” and “I’m thinking I can’t live without you.” Please, really? Then the strings come in, attempting to punt this floundering display of awkward hormonal romance into the top of the bleachers.
Boys Like Girls are not rock ‘n’ roll; they’re some sad offshoot, packaged for the kids whose parents liked New Kids On The Block (or maybe Winger). Love Drunk will find an audience, and they’ll love it. This album will get a lot of confused, reality-television-obsessed kids through breakups, hang-ups and prom night woes. Rock radio will devour it, but who listens to rock radio anymore? Anyone over the age of 14 would be well advised to steer clear.