I remember when my father was teaching me how to drive stick. I was a pretty stubborn student and he wasn't the most patient of teachers, so the entire experience was rather unpleasant. Communication breakdowns tend to happen when you're poorly attempting something automotive and your dad's both a fanatical car enthusiast and a mechanic. So there I was, plodding along and riding whatever gear I was in far too weakly and my father, in his not-so-subtle manner, reaches over and pushes my knee down. I'm startled but the car shoots forward, and he matter-of-factly says, "See? Give it some damn gas!"
Someone needs to do this to The Break.
However, it turns out that Alex Newport isn't the man for the job. Handbook For The Hopeless moves along at a frustrating pace, stuck somewhere between big crunchy hard rock and Midwestern-influenced punk, unfortunately never really achieving the level of bombast required by the former nor the speed and vitriol characteristic of the later. The album interspaces mid-tempo punk tunes with a number of power-ballads. In these songs the band puts on a competent alt-rock face, but the tracks drag the pacing to a halt. While tunes like "The Wolves Are At The Front Door" are "nice enough" punk rock songs, the band never seems to be firing on all cylinders. This isn't just speculation, either; "Ride The Snake" is a perfect example of how hard The Break can rock. It's a speedy little Motorhead-inspired number that plays perfectly off of John Waverka's weather-worn vocals. However too often we get tunes like "`67 Avenged," which fall dangerously into Pearl Jam-like alt-rock territory. I have a sneaking suspicion that this record would do quite well if targeted at post-grunge "modern rock" radio, but I'm not entirely sure that's what The Break was going for.
I feel a little guilty knocking this record, as The Break's been nothing if not hardworking and have yet get a really fair shake by the critics. However, Handbook For The Hopeless lacks the energy necessary to capitalize on the band's potential. This car stalls before it ever really gets going.
MP3: The Wolves are at The Front Door