Man Overboard - Real Talk (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Man Overboard

Real Talk (2010)

Run for Cover

Man Overboard bore a fair amount of potential with their debut 2008 EP, Hung Up on Nothing. Since then, the band's issued a veritable flood of releases, championing the mantra "DEFEND POP PUNK" along the way. It's a curious angle to take, given that on each release the band are essentially playing overtly produced, scrappy pop-rock–strictly about girls–with shades of modern emo, major label pop-punk, and even Top 40. This might not be such a bad concoction if the band didn't approach it so lethargically or perfunctorily (an Auto-Tune-ridden 2009 split with Transit was a low point, notably its watered-down sequel to Taking Back Sunday's "This Photograph Is Proof (I Know You Know)" ). It's a problem that plagues their first full-length, last year's Real Talk, as well.

Actually, Real Talk's central issue is how bafflingly inconsistent it is. Title track opener "Real Talk" starts promisingly enough, with punchy vocals and melodies; it's an aggressive, forward-moving chug, with fairly interesting guitar work and pedals. Things start to go sour quickly, though–"World Favorite" emits needlessly cutesy vocal rasp that only grates, and the band's less-than-poetic diction begins to take shape ("I think you're my favorite girl I ever met. / I bought a new notebook for the road. / Covered it with your area code. / Over and over again"). Something about this (and the band's vastly one-dimensional content) would be excusable if Man Overboard were middle-schoolers, but as lyricists they're capable of far, far better. It's pandering at its lowest common denominator. "Montrose"? "I wasn't surprised she was chillen [sic] lookin' hot in her bed smoking pot." Really??? There's everyday realism, and there's this. "Septemberism"? "Then we went downstairs. / I saw your bedroom and stuff." Come on.

"Fantasy Girl" is lo-fi All Time Low fare with a few glimmering moments of radio-ready spitshine, but it's topped off with blatant, nettling Auto-Tuning on the chorus. "Darkness, Everybody" is inoffensive power-pop with another chiming, shimmery chorus. "She's Got Her Own Man Now" is another example of the band contrasting rugged guitars with an attempt at pristinely tracked cleanliness, though every level feels so maxed out it loses dynamism.

Real Talk's other, better moments: "Parting Gift" carries a comparatively raw energy that's refreshing in the context of the album, even if some of the vocal harmonies are a bit vexing. "Al Sharpton", in spite of its persistent pitch correcting and laughably derivative chord progressions that oversaturated in 2002, actually stands out well with a blitz of rambling melodies and a fist-pumping pace. Musically, "Montrose" isn't half-bad, and the quick piano bridge is a nice touch, but as aforementioned, blocking out the lyrics is a must. "FM Dial Style" is an okay-ish Ozma B-side, and "I Like You" plows through with a wall of pop-rock sound that's done just decently enough.

Man Overboard say all you need to know in "She's Got Her Own Man Now": "At my best, put to test, I'd score average or less." Hopefully there's a serious act of quality control in play as the band ready to release their sophomore full-length and proper Rise debut.

World Favorite
Fantasy Girl
Al Sharpton