I have no idea what to write about this CD.
On one hand, I can argue that it's the band's finest work yet. With this album, the band should be able to escape their "ex-members of" stigma [if you don't know, this band is ex-Jawbreaker, Texas Is The Reason, Handsome, and the Van Pelt, but that shouldn't matter anymore]. Each song is a mini-epic, with most clocking in at 5 minutes or more. Musically, the album seems to be the most mature of the three. The songs take all the rock of the first album without bringing along the cheesy new wave, and they mix it with the country of the second album, but leaving the hokeyness behind. It's the best of both worlds, really.
Then, on the other hand, we have Blake's lyrics. Blake's always been known for his lyrics over anything else - talk about pressure! This album's songs seem to be lacking in the lyrical department - if there was ever any question that Blake blew his lyrical wad on "Orange Rhyming Dictionary" [an album which I still know every word to], this album puts the final nail in the coffin.
The band is also still recycling themes from the first album, too. Take the "rock" theme - the first album had "Resistance is Futile," the second album had "Milk and Apples" [a straight ripoff if I ever heard one], and the new album has the one-two punch of "William Tell Override" and "Disgrace." All four of the songs, while good, tend to blend together. The band seems to be running out of ideas, so all they did on this album is just make the songs longer so Blake can include more words.
More words. That's another complaint I have. Blake has always been able to tell a story with his words, but now it's like he's writing a novel. There's no consistency between verses and choruses, there's no lyrical repetition, nothing. I know I'm nitpicking to some people right now, but I think it's important - I can't for the life of me remember the lyrics to these songs, and I've been listening to them almost nonstop for at least a month. I don't know what Blake was trying to accomplish with this, but it didn't work.
So yeah, the lyrics are not up to par, but the music is strong as ever [if somewhat rehashed]. Opener "The Frequency" reminds me of Hum somewhat, with pounding guitars and drums, and some neat spacey effects during the verses. "You're The One I Want" is an upbeat, playful number that Blake's voice shines on. The same cannot be said for "Rocket Boy," an eight and a half minute album closing dirge where Blake's age [and throat problems] show. "Cat Heaven" and "Wish List" could have both been on "Four Cornered Night," as one is a kind of folky pop number with a pretty piano part, and the other is an acoustic guitar driven song. "Further North" is the new "Sea Anenome," literally - the song is almost a carbon copy of the latter. I listen to this song and wonder how the band did not realize they were ripping themselves off.
The album goes on like this for over an hour. It seems like in each song I can pick out something the band's already used on the past 2 albums. While I do think that this is the strongest musically the band has ever been, it also makes me think they're at "one trick pony" status [sort of like the Alkaline Trio now]. Sure, the Jets can write good catchy rock songs, and touching sappy ballads, but does making those rock songs and sappy ballads longer neccessarily make them better? I can't really decide. The songs seem to go around and around in circles, dizzying this reviewer until he doesn't know which way is up.
"Orange Rhyming Dictionary" is one of the best albums I own. "Four Cornered Night" is one of the most disappointing albums I own. This album falls somewhere in between, I just can't decide where yet.