It's like the band have reborn themselves again -- and they know it.The above words come from the promotional material supporting Step Outside Yourself, Over It's fourth full-length release, and first for major label Virgin Records. This is indeed a refreshed version of a band that has been kicking around the pop-punk scene for the better half of a decade, playing over 700 shows from coast-to-coast, and touring with the likes of Yellowcard, All-American Rejects, and Relient K. Seasoned, stylish, and confident in their musical abilities, the only thing heretofore lacking from Over It's stock of weapons has been a palpable amount of buzz and of course, the financial muscle to truly market "the big hit." Whether or not the latter actually comes to fruition, no one can blame Over It for not giving it their everything.
Getting down to business -- Step Outside Yourself is drastically slowed-down from the band's earlier material, and notably more consistent in mid-tempo from 2005's breakout release Silverstrand (Lobster). Still, Over It's core is undeniably rooted in pop-punk, and while the band's sound has become more and more technically advanced over the years, its quotient of youthful enthusiasm and sheer earnestness has never waned. At first glance, Step Outside Yourself is an uncomfortable, if not purely frustrating listenā?¦at least for this longtime fan. It takes more than a few deep listening sessions for Over It's musical evolution to sink in. Plainly, the band's newfangled "major label sound" is slightly disorienting.
But like most things where the very issue of newness becomes muted over time and familiarity, Step Outside Yourself rapidly becomes a mostly endearing piece of work. Opener "Think Against the Grain" is delightfully catchy and on-point with its message of personal and intellectual openness. The followup, "Gunslinger" establishes a baseline for aggressiveness -- Over It may have polished up their sound, but they haven't traded in their affinity for powerful choruses. "Siren on the 101," the re-recorded stunner from Silverstrand is a few paces slower on here, but features an additional bit of guitar nuance, courtesy of new member Ryan Ogren, formerly of Don't Look Down. I've been a sucker for this song from its first impression, and I am more than happy to see it given a second chance for widespread exposure. On the fifth track, "Dishonor, Disorder," Over It truly takes advantage of the massive sound the recording provides. With interactive, punchy guitars and dead-on drumming from the highly talented James Ulrich, this song pushes aside the band's penchant for breeziness (see songs "Too Much Information," "Mr. Serious," and "Feels Like Affection") and whips up something with much more depth and darkness.
Step Outside Yourself stumbles a couple of times with Over It sounding very loose, especially as the album wades into its final quarter. Songs such as "Feels Like Affection," and the closer "Like Satellites" strain under the pressure of lead singer Peter Munters inching out of his range. The latter song is made even more disappointing by the fact that it marks the end of the album, where previously Over It always shined in that position with "Crush" from Timing Is Everything, and "Partner in Crime" from Silverstrand. The twelfth track, "Come Out with Your Hands Up," is largely forgettable except for an unexpected bit of rhythmic flair towards the end that feels like a waltz after a few too many umbrella-laden poolside cocktails. In all, the album's thirteen songs cover more than 40 minutes of music, and it takes some perseverance to digest all the sugar in just one sitting.
Listening to Step Outside Yourself is like eating at your favorite pizza place after it has undergone an extensive renovation and moved towards more upscale fare. Yes, the dish with the fresh mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, and organic basil tastes great, but sometimes what you really crave in the end is the greasy but charming slice you've come to rely on for comfort for years and years past.