Just Surrender - Phoenix (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Just Surrender

Phoenix (2010)

Razor & Tie

Three years can seem like a long time between albums with the glut of music that gets released today--unless, of course, you are Mike Ness. Save for a self-released tour EP, that's how long we've been waiting with baited breath between Just Surrender releases. Well, they are back, and it appears that the band and the major label subsidiary Broken English that put out their last two albums are currently seeing other people. I'm sure the guys in Just Surrender wanted to move to a place that embraced their less commercial and darker new album Phoenix. To get this done they are now releasing records on Razor & Tie, a label know for such groundbreaking releases as the Kidz Bop franchise and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. If you are a comic book fan--and I'm betting you are--at this point you are probably saying to yourself "Hey! This must be like when that wussemo Jean Grey turned into the totally powerful and attractive intergalactic entity known as Phoenix." But you have to admit that being attracted to an illustrated image is kind of strange. You know what else is strange? Grabbing your band's very bland form of Taking Back Sunday-influenced pop-rock/nü-emo and taking three years to produce something that revels in even more clichés of the genre and poor songwriting.

"Intro," as you might suspect, starts the listening experience, and even though it is instrumental it tells you a lot about the the record you are about to get into. The crunchy and brooding guitars that I'm sure are meant to come off as "heavy" get completely castrated by glossy production and over-compression. It's like taking a a scary-looking revolver and giving it a shiny pearl handle; actually, no, it isn't, because that sounds grade "A" badassitude whereas this sounds quite frankly like crap. When you add in vocals to the mix, the production falters again, oftentimes adding completely unnecessary vocal "magic," giving them a antiseptic, airy quality.

The blame can't be placed solely on the production end, though, as you can't really blame them for trying to polish a turd. The role of synths play a larger part in this album and can be seen as the band at least trying to spice up their songwriting, but the synth lines aren't creative and the tones border on awful; it kind of makes you think of a low-rent Motion City Soundtrack, but hey, at least it isn't only Taking Back Sunday they are being compared to now, right? Right? Aside from the album's second single "Take Me Home," and "Burning Up," which are rather catchy (especially the former), most of the album is completely forgettable. The prerequisite acoustic number "Carried Away" shows some nice arrangement, good guitar playing and a catchy chorus but the lyrics are so bad in spots it makes Chris Carrabba look like a poet laureate.

Even if you were a fan of Just Surrender before this album, it will probably leave you wanting more. In that case, I suggest grabbing the few serviceable tracks from iTunes and forgetting the rest, because while the band is no longer affiliated with a major label it seems like Phoenix is still operating in that style-over-substance, single-heavy mode that doesn't really serve the band, label or fans all that well.