Artist: Allstar Weekend
Album: All The Way
Label: Hollywood Records
Anything involved misused and/or butchered synth is swiftly becoming my most hated subgenre after pop punk. However, that curmudgeonly remark aside, this isn’t all bad. It’s an oddball album, just as capable of rather loveable little pop numbers as it is of contrived plastic pop nonsense. If you can segue through all the bad points and jump straight to the more organic fare, you should find something to like here.
Dividing the album up then, I will start with the more appealing numbers. “Blame It On September,” from the album’s midsection, is a genuinely rather nice song. It’s stripped bare of all the synth and the lack of needless, gaudy additions allows it to excel on its own terms. It consists mainly of a guitar and vocals, and when the electronics aren’t interfering with his voice, Zachary Porter’s singing is quite competent. The intensive chorus stands out here – the string samples and suchlike are a little ostentatious but compared to the rest of the album it’s almost minimalistic, and endearing in its own way. “When I Get Paid” also has a cheerful likeability, sounding a bit like r’n’b dressed up in mild dance music. There are kooky sound effects in the chorus and it’s relatively sunny and sparky even if it’s not particularly inventive.
“Undercover” and “Teenage Hearts” (the tenth and twelfth tracks respectively) are both commendable songs, so stick around until the end. “Undercover” peels away the nonsensical colour and uses a guitar, vox, and a genuinely enthusiastic beat. The chorus is jovial and warm and makes ample use of the occasional splice of electric guitar and some key effects. The latter half is particularly engaging, fast and eager and fun-loving, with all kinds of raucous musical endeavours including some precocious backing vocals to add an additional thrill to proceedings. “Teenage Hearts” is, in spite of everything, very cute. It’s a swaying and gentle acoustic number, replete with strings to match and a surprisingly heartfelt tone in Porter’s voice. It comes pretty close to ruination with a massively pompous chorus comprising a heady, wannabe cinematic orchestral swell but falls more on the side of the cheesy and theatrical. The rest of the song is lovely though, sounding more genuine and from the heart, and creating a suitably evocative air of longing.
However, these few songs aside, the album is a mess. It’s directionless and silly, making no attempt to disguise its awkward would-be hipness by naming tracks things like “Do It 2 Me” and “Sorry…” (the three full stops are actually enumerated in the song as ‘sorry, dot dot dot’). “Mr Wonderful,” the album opener, is a particularly glaring casualty, coming off as a standard uns-uns-uns song with words. “Bend or Break” isn’t that bad but everything sounds far too artificial, exploding from sombre verse into massive chorus, and uses really, really weird samples of children singing as background fodder. “Not Your Birthday” sounds a bit like “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO. It’s shameless dancefloor music, with a decently catchy chorus, though the latter does make the attempts at structure elsewhere all the more pointless and the bizarre inclusion of some rapping near the end doesn’t help.
“James (Never Change)” sounds almost…sassy. If you’ll pardon the word usage. The bass line is good, but it’s all cheese. It has a tired beat, formulaic programming, and an overly commercialised chorus making for a dull and unoriginal finished product. “All the Way” is undernourished. It did, seemingly, have the potential to be more with a decent rhythm and instrumentation but, considering the album is founded on gaudy set pieces, the lack of them here almost does it disservice. It’s a touch unfinished, and a little plain.
Looking at things this way, the album is more miss than hit, but it isn’t going to melt your brain or anything. It’s a curious release, chock full of uninspired drivel and yet able to unveil the odd gem. Best to just cut the wheat from the chaff and ignore the rest, but suffice to say, if polished tween bubblegum music isn’t your thing you’d best walk right on by.
Review written by Grace Duffy