Maybe Memories was one of the best albums of this screamo rock/pop-punk era. In Love and Death wasn’t as bad as many made it out and still had a few good singles. Come Lies for the Liar and Artwork, well it was a bit regressive. Bert McCracken and company have managed to keep their core intact but musically, things have waned a bit. "I Come Alive" proves a bit on the softer side and this is a side that really didn’t have fans accepting the deviation from the first two albums. The debut of Memories was immensely solid and somehow there has not been an evolution or progression in subsequent albums. Maybe they didn’t want to experiment like bands such as Thursday and take a gamble but the lack of innovation here reeks of adolescent days a decade ago and surely, “I used to like them...way back in high school” has become the proverbial rant when asked if you like this band nowadays.
Then again we are old and haggard so maybe the new generation may take to them more than us who want Rancid or NOFX or some iteration of wordspeak. Well, if you want evolution, Vulnerable isn't the album for you. "This Fire" is that romantic nuance that McCracken feels the need to plug in. Is he still getting crapped on by the opposite sex after all these years? It sounds like he wrote these songs years ago and just took them back into the studio for a product. It’s hard to distinguish any established growth. I can’t fathom all that decadence and sex having him still deprived of maturity. He was my favorite frontman for a while. God. No. Just…no.
On "Hands and Faces," remonstrate ‘cuz it is that bad. "Put Me Out" is one of the much better songs as it riffs akin to olden days. Still, I cannot shake how they painted themselves into a corner and pigeonholed their sound. This assures that they won’t grow a fanbase…but it just risks losing new ones. They should have cut loose. They are not on Warner Records anymore. Why play it safe? It’s Hopeless Records. At least they could use cavalier as an excuse and experimentation could breed a win, right? Differentiation and redefining an integral sound on Hopeless Records--that’s the kicker right? I mean, Silverstein did it. They refined on Hopeless Records. Right? It’s rhetorical. I can see the hapless and haphazard comments already but I still gave this record the benefit of the doubt. But there’s an eerie repetition of lyrics in the spine of the album. Maybe if this were a new band I’d be more forgiving.
There’s only so much darkness, cynicism and heartache I can stomach. McCracken cornered the market on these things with that vice-grip a decade ago. "Give Me Love" is actually not bad but not that strong enough to refute the doubt that seeps in when you reach this point of the record. There’s not enough meat, it lacks gusto. It pulls punches. It plays off as too fucking safe. McCracken has depreciated per album. I hate that that’s my stature now as I loved this band. I have so many tees from them and despite "Moving On" being clichéd, but actually not that depressing, the record has a flawed scope. No way can the impeccable debut be matched.
"Getting over You" is a typically placed ballad at track nine for the most impact--it’s too bloody formulaic and the band didn’t think older fans would grow by now? There is slight redemption at the end. Slight. The loss of McCracken’s screaming may be too much due to too much alcohol and cigarettes, but who am I to judge? I’m just a guy who loved Maybe Memories way back when and pretty much thought this new album was underwhelming. It isn’t terrible but it’s not up to the Used and abused standards set in the past. It falls short.