Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Bigger Lights - Fiction Fever Album Review

Remember when pop-punk was all the rage? It seemed like if you wanted to get big, all you had to do was make a moderately catchy album with cheesy lyrics and the music buying teenage populace would rush out to buy whatever you were pushing. Thankfully, those days appear to be gone, but I think part of that is because pop-punk has simply been supplanted by trendy pop-metalcore. It's a rough world nowadays and kids want some edge in what they listen to. I never got into the pop-punk genre much, at least the modern incarnation of the genre. I still love classic pop-punk from the 90's as put out by all of the Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords bands. The review below was originally published on March 18, 2009.

Who would have ever thought that a pop-punk band would get their name from a Shakespeare play (The Tempest, to be exact)? It seems somewhat counter to the fun-loving, laid-back nature of the genre, but the odds are that your average pop-punk fan would never know where The Bigger Lights’ name came from (or maybe even who Shakespeare is) unless they were digging through the band's bio online.

Signed to pop-rock, pop-punk powerhouse label Doghouse Records, The Brighter Lights have joined the company of already established acts such as The All-American Rejects, Say Anything, and Jet Lag Gemini. The only label that might have been even more fitting for The Brighter Lights is Fueled By Ramen. Fiction Fever is an unabashedly paint-by-numbers pop-punk release, complete with hand claps, oohs & ahhs, crooning adolescent vocal melodies, and whispered backing vocals. Take these traits and pour them over some basic pop-punk song structures and you’ve pretty much got The Bigger Lights.

You could leave it at that, but it does deserve mentioning that, despite the overwhelming stench of leftover Fall Out Boy b-side songwriting, more than a few of the songs on this EP are actually decently catchy. However, for every catchy track, there’s an utter failure to offset it. For example, “Goldmine Valentine” sees the band wondering if they can break out of the genre conventions that trap them, but by goofing around with tempo switches, odd chastising vocal “Oh no no no” passages, and some odd stuttering guitars they only prove they don’t quite know what to do when they’re not sticking to the strict guidelines of the pop-punk playbook.

With the right marketing and tours, however, it wouldn’t be that tough for The Bigger Lights to be as popular as All Time Low or Hit the Lights. On their own merits, though, they don’t have a lot going for them other than being able to excel at crafting cookie-cutter pop-punk songs that don’t push any boundaries. If that’s what you want, which is true for many kids today, then Fiction Fever will be just perfect.

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