MUSIC: John Reviews “Big Bold Letters” by Cruiserweight

If you caught my previous review of Cruiserweight’s debut album Sweet Weaponry, you already know that I was eagerly anticipating more unabashedly rockin’ powerpop on their latest release, Big Bold Letters.  Boy, was I in for a letdown!  In an odd turn of events, the gentlemen and lady of Cruiserweight seem to have abandoned both their powerpop/punk/core sound and their sensitive and heart-wrenching emo sound, instead embracing a formulaic straight-up pop sound that is reminiscent of Cyndi Lauper or her 1980s contemporaries (but without the 80s charm.)  None of the tracks are as fast and riotous as “Vermont,”nor are they as slow or melancholy as “Operation: Eyes Closed.” Instead, they decided to aim for thoroughly disappointing middle ground that failed to satisfy me at all. Big Bold Letters isn’t completely terrible, but it’s certainly a step in an altogether different direction.

Cruiserweight gives a last goodbye to its tender acoustic songs with the album opener, “Calling You from Hell,” which breaks from Sweet Weaponry’s streak of clever lyrics and strong messages.  It’s a textbook song about a dejected and rejected lover who will keep calling to apologize and beg for forgiveness.  It is, in my estimation, the exact wrong way to start an album.

Thankfully, they follow it with “Balboa,” possibly the best track on the album and the polar opposite of its predecessor.  It is an anthem for those who are trying to improve their lives and get things on the right track, with a little help from someone special.  Cruiserweight seems to agree that it’s the best of the bunch, since it’s the only one with a video.

“Distraction” and “Slack” are allright as slower powerpop goes (though “Slack” sounds like powerpop for small children,) but on the whole it and the rest of the album seem to be a mass-produced homogenized version of “Goodbye Daily Sadness” from Sweet Weaponry.  I characterized the better tracks from that album as balls-to-the-wall, something I cannot say about any of the tracks on Big Bold Letters.  Now they sound like a watered-down version of Paramore for the Vh1 crowd (the old Vh1, not the celebReality garbage they’re obsessed with these days,) which might lead to more record sales? maybe?  I’m the wrong person to make that call. There is an irony in one of their songs being called “You Don’t Get It,” since I would argue that they don’t “get” what attracted fans to them in the first place.  But then again, maybe the things I liked so much were the biggest obstacles to their success!

If you found Sweet Weaponry too edgy or fast and are looking for something a bit tamer, Big Bold Letters is right for you.  If you’re like me, though, and are looking for something more in line with “Vermont”, save your money for something like Rosematter’s new self-titled album (which I hope to purchase and review soon.)

BREAKDOWN

PROS: “Balboa” is a lot of fun and very positive, “Distraction” and “Slack” are enjoyable enough to not change the station if they’re on the radio.

CONS: Pretty much everything else.

RATING: 4/10

SOUNDS LIKE: Paramore meets Cyndi Lauper, with a dash of Kylie Minogue?  A slickly produced and homogenized version of Cruiserweight’s older sound from Sweet Weaponry.  Funnily enough, I’d be willing to bet this sort of music would’ve fit right in on the Nick & Norah movie soundtrack.

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