Posted on January 14th, 2009 (1:53 pm) by Sean Morrissey

A lot has changed in the three years since the All American Rejects released their sophomore chart smasher Move Along, most notably the fact that singer Tyson Ritter is no longer the only songwriting heartthrob to stroll on down the block. With the arrival of the Jonas Brothers, Taylor Swift, and of course Miley Cyrus, a new breed of fresh faced musicians have virtually taken over the cultural whole, leaving other young bands like the All American Rejects to strive harder and harder to separate themselves from the pack as true blue rock and rollers. And as if keeping up with the Jones’s weren’t a task in itself, now try topping the enormous success of an album like Move Along, and you’ve truly got your work cut out for you. Thankfully AAR have what it takes to face such daunting obstacles, as they have proven with When the World Comes Down. Don’t let the album’s title fool you - this is not the sound of a band breaking under the weight of success. This is an album that re-instates the All American Rejects as the crowning fathers to whom bands like the Jonas Brothers own a great deal of thanks.

Given the success of 2005’s Move Along it would have been easy for AAR to simply rinse and repeat the same sing along formula and sell another 4 million records. But within seconds of the album’s opening track “I Wanna” it’s obvious the group has no intention of being typecast as the providing balladeers of radio rock. “I Wanna” is a great rock song in almost every sense of the word. With rapid pace drums and easily captured melodies it is among the hardest songs on the album.

At times on When the World Comes Down it’s clear the band is trying to break their own mold of the four chord guitar song, as can be seen with the highly addictive “Fallin’ Apart.” I will come out now and say this is probably the strongest track on the album, blending quirky string parts with Elton John style piano that stand far from the sound one would expect to hear from AAR. The band is tighter than ever on this record, and it comes across in the harmonies they make. Every instrument works to fill the space of the other, though at points it comes across too polished and overproduced. A little dirt in the gears would certainly not do anything to hurt.

“Mona Lisa” offers a different kind of ballad, more in the standard tradition of bare acoustics and reflective lyrics. Tyson’s trademark cracked voice croons, “You can sit beside me when the world comes down, but if it doesn’t matter than just turn around” and while the words are imaginative, the tempo of the song is unfitting, leaving me to wonder what emotion the group is really aiming for. All told the thought of sitting beside someone you love and watching the world die is still something that will forever keep my interest.

In keeping with trying a hand at new tricks, the group enlisted sister singers the Pierces, who appear on the duet “Another Heart Calls.” The alternating female voice blended with Ritter’s are a strong compliment, managing to sound more natural than most duets ever do. Its speaks well of AAR that, given their mass appeal, no calls were made to an artist like Alicia Keys (no offense Alicia, I loved your last album) who would have surely brought a smash hit, but a potentially poor song.

The album ends with more mediocrity than the other ten tracks would suggest it should. “The Wind Blows” is at best a safety track, relying heavily on trite lyrics like “you told me love was blind” and a wishy washy backdrop that struggles to makes its impact known. It’s hardly unpleasant to the ear, but I don’t think it would have done the group any harm in cutting the album’s track list down one.

While the All American Rejects may not be trying to change the face of music, they are keeping us in plentiful supply of enjoyable rock songs with killer hooks. As the musical landscape continues to reshape itself and the Jonas Brothers are damned to become one of the most important pop acts in world history, AAR has at the very least preserved a small plot of land to perch on and watch When the World Comes Down.

Track List:

1. I Wanna (3:29)
2. Fallin’ Apart (3:27)
3. Damn Girl (3:52)
4. Gives you Hell (3:33)
5. Mona Lisa (3:15)
6. Breakin’ (3:59)
7. Another Heart Calls (4:09)
8. Real World (4:03)
9. Back to Me (4:29)
10. Believe (3:28)
11. The Wind Blows (4:22)

all american rejects
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