I really wanted to like They Came From the Shadows. I did. And to an extent, I do. There are some very catchy pop-punk songs on this album. But this will definitely not be seen as one of the stronger Teenage Bottlerocket albums in the future.
Opening the album is “Skate or Die,” which brought me high hopes for this album. Infectiously fun guitar lead? Check. Catchy as an STD melody? Check. Chorus that get’s stuck in your head and easy to sing along to? Check and check. All sorts of inside references to old school skateboarding and punk? OH HELL YES. They opened the album with the strongest song. And after that, my hopes were shattered. “Don’t Want to Go” is standard Teenage Bottlerocket fare, this time dealing with a breakup, and not being able to get someone out of your head. Still on par for being a good album. Nothing especially new or brilliant yet, but the boys from Wyoming are doing what they do best. The next song is where I get lost. “Bigger Than Kiss,” a song about very obviously being bigger than Kiss and rock excess, just didn’t do it for me. Hell, I’m not sure I’d throw this on a b-side anywhere. I know, they’re a pop-punk band. And a very special breed of pop punk that deals with songs about bubblegum and girls. But this song alone just ruins the entire album for me.
The next couple songs, “Do What” and “Not OK” are more standard fare from the group. Poppy songs about relationships. “Forbidden Planet” is sung by Cody, and could have been a Lillingtons song. Or with their recent direction, a Riverdales tune. There is a possible undertone of environmentalism here, but I don’t listen to Teenage Bottlerocket for political songs. I’d rather hear cutesy songs about girls when I throw on their records. “Call in Sick” is the next track, and I’m already losing interest. Could it be that at thirty I’m getting sick of people whining about not wanting to go to work? Man up. We all have to do it. “Fatso Goes Nutzoid” is actually semi-interesting. A song about a fat kid who’s insecure with their body. However lyrically it doesn’t really go anywhere. Nothing more than that sentiment. “ Without You” get’s back to Teenage Bottlerocket at their best. A song about a lost love, and being lonely. Nothing groundbreaking, but a quality well crafted pop song. “Tonguebiter, “Be With You,” and “The Jerk” are all filler material about finding fault with someone and not saying anything, not wanting to be with someone, and a jerk. Respectively. The title track is decent, and the chorus is catchy enough, but the rest is forgettable. The closing track, “Todayo” is a track about that beginning part of a relationship, when you go too far, start waking up next to someone, and actually hope that they will still be willing to come around after work/school/etc, even if there are still awkward moments.
Overall, I’m disappointed in this album. Too much filler, and not enough substance. While still one of the best bands doing this style, I hope this effort isn’t signifying their decline as a pop-punk powerhouse. Not many bands are playing this style well anymore, and it’s albums like this that are the reason that three-chord Ramones and Lookout! Records influenced pop-punk declined in the late 90's. Complacency. I’m not expecting anything new, or for a band to push the envelope, but when I pop a record like this onto the player, I expect to have fun.
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