July 12, 2011 - S-Curve
We The Kings’ third full-length finds the band once and for all abandoning the pop-punk sound that put them on the map following the release of their 2007 self-titled debut. Not that this is terribly surprising: As was the case on 2009’s Smile Kid, the Florida quartet have moved past the pop-punk universe in favor of an unabashed pop tilt, one ultimately bereft of much emotion or feeling.The passion and energy that seeped from songs like “Check Yes Juliet” and “Skyway Avenue” has been replaced with sterile production, stale musicianship and sophomoric lyricism. The band rely primarily on light, acoustic-based pop reminiscent of a sunny beach afternoon, making Sunshine State Of Mind a fitting title. “Say You Like Me” dabbles in pseudo-reggae before giving way to an open-strummed chorus, and lead single and album opener “Friday Is Forever” melds syncopated acoustic guitar strums with sun-kissed melodies and a swirling string arrangement. But there’s little variation; the melodies feel recycled—even from the band’s previous material—and only a few hooks are strong enough to really stick.
Vocalist Travis Clark’s words are unequivocally shallow throughout these 10 tracks—save for a grin-inducing Zodiac reference on “Friday Is Forever.” What’s worse, he delivers them seemingly without any sincerity or authenticity. One minute, he’s begging for sex (“Sleep With Me”) only to almost instantly have moved on (“Over You,” literally the very next track). Clark’s lyrics have surprisingly regressed since the band’s early days; now, all he has to offer are lines like, “I’m never going to leave, so put your hands up/If you like me, then say you like me.”
It’s actually a bit disheartening to see We The Kings end up like this, even if the writing was all over the proverbial walls. The band were so determined to chase crossover success that they went for broke, boarding the first bus out of the Warped Tour station. They penned duets with Disney stars and tunes tailor-made for rom-coms, but somewhere along the way on this trip, the transmission blew. Now the band simply sound lost, almost as if they’re forced to hitchhike their way to pop stardom. Sunshine State Of Mind might very well pass as summertime background music, but listeners looking for any sort of substance should look elsewhere.