No matter how you feel about them, there's no denying that Whole Wheat Bread have built a small cult following over the last half-decade. Brandishing their own style of early 2000s pop-punk (Ã¡ la Sum 41 or New Found Glory in their heydays), they've already got numerous tours under their belts with other punk rock luminaries as the Bouncing Souls, Big D and The Kids Table and even Rancid. Whether you feel that much of that success has been reliant on gimmicks more than anything else or not, that's a discussion to save for another time (most likely the comments section on this page). Either way, it's hard to refute that the band has come a long way in such a short amount of time.
Three years since the Punk Life EP, and having since gone through a revolving door of bass players, Whole Wheat Bread kick off the new year with a return to form found in their second full-length, entitled Hearts of Hoodlums. Critics of Punk Life's heavy experimentation with hip-hop will be glad to know that WWB have toned it down considerably this time around, as it's only prominently featured in two songs ("Throw Your Sets Up" and "Stuck in Da Dark"). Both take a much more relaxed approach in comparison to Punk Life's gangster rap/rock jams, and while they aren't necessarily bad, they lack that obnoxious allure that drew in fans on their last go-around with raucous tracks like "I Don't Give a Fuck" and "No Problem."
Other than that, the Jacksonville trio has added a dash of maturity to a lot of their songwriting this time around as well. Fast-paced anthems about smoking weed and running from the police are in shorter supply and taking their place are more serious songs to sink your teeth into. Vocalist Aaron Abraham's tribute to his father (aptly titled "Ode 2 Father") and a mostly acoustic track called "Staying True" are some of the highlights to pick out from this group. Meanwhile, older fans of the band can find some enjoyment in songs like "Lower Class Man" and "I Can't Think"; either one could have fit just as well on 2005's effort, Minority Rules. All in all, there's a little something for everyone on this record that can keep casual fans as well as die-hard ones happy.
But that's just the thing. The one problem Whole Wheat Bread keeps running into here is that they're simply trying to please too many people at once. Between the hip-hop songs, the fun and goofy songs and the serious songs, Hearts of Hoodlums never seems to find the niche it wants to carve. Whole Wheat Bread is just one of those bands that polarizes people so much that until they find the exact place where they want to be, I don't see this record making WWB a whole lot of new fans.
Those who love the band will likely eat this up, and those who can't stand it will stay far, far away. You won't find much middle ground when it comes to them, so take your pick.