For the Good of the State would be better if We Took First had entitled it "For the Good of the Nation", instead referencing the Simpsons episode with George Bush, Sr. That would have given me a rare smile while listening to this. They opted not to go that route, setting the precedent for bad choices all over this EP. I think they were trying to represent Long Island, and representing things is usually a lofty idea with bad results.
Wearing one's influences sleeve-side isn't fundamentally a bad thing. It can point to a lack of originality, but if the songs are good that shouldn't matter. Except, We Took First must love Set Your Goals so much they felt they needed to get one high-pitched whiny vocalist and one regular vocalist to pay the ultimate homage. It doesn't sound like an homage, though–it just sounds silly, like a parody of SYG that cant even crank out a good tune once in awhile. Now maybe We Took First has never listened to Set Your Goals, but if they said that it would probably be a lie; I mean, even their name was made in a similar fashion. [Validated! - Ed.]
"Con the Villain" has all the earmarks of a rookie popcore band that hasn't gotten the delicate balance between hardcore and pop-punk down. There is some really bad double bass drumming that opens up the song and doesn't sound like it belongs with the guitar playing at all. I don't get throwing double bass in just for the sake of it; it doesn't add anything to the song. If you want to mix things up, why not throw in an interesting fill here and there instead? Then there are some terribly out-of-place gang vocals that are about as appealing as an overbearing mother shouting at her offspring in the supermarket. "Dive in Head First" starts off promising, with chunky riffs that could easily go into more melodic territory and gang vocals that are well placed. Then something happens–the song changes direction and the transition is really jarring.
The hardest part about listening to this album isn't the mad scientist sardine and vanilla ice cream sandwich concoctions being made with the music, but the fact that a lot of the lyrics are so clichéd and cringe-worthy. I realized after 10 minutes I was hiding under my bed while listening to the album with headphones on in case someone else heard it. "I'm bruised and broken but I won't cave in. The time's right now to sink or swim" is a prominent lyric in "Basement Living", and somewhere out there Mike Ness is wincing and he doesn't know why. I think we as the listening public should also set an ultimatum that bands stop using "nice guys finish last" lines, because when something to that effect comes in on "This One's for You, Tobey Maguire", it actually made me angry. If you say that you are a nice guy you probably aren't a nice guy; you are an asshole, the object of your desire is probably an asshole too, and the sooner you accept that we're all a bunch of gaping assholes the better.
For the Good of the State isn't really for the good of anyone, but there are small bright spots. Aside from the horrid lyrics, "Basement Living" is actually a pretty cool little song and there are some decent vocal melodies and riffs elsewhere before they get ruined by the band trying too hard to blend genres. Focus on writing your own good songs rather than trying to sound like your idols, guys.