On their fourth album, "Kids in the Street," the All-American Rejects sacrifice a lot of their youthful vigor and spunk for a newfound maturity and balladry. Whether that's been influenced more by actual growing up or having some success placing songs on movie soundtracks is anyone's guess.
Call it Goo Goo Dolls syndrome.
If you took the title of "Kids in the Street" to mean that the band would be acting like scrappy youths 13 years into their career, you'd be mistaken. Actually, the title track is one of those wistfully backward-looking reveries in which a singer waxes nostalgic for his younger days -- even if, in the case of Tyson Ritter, he's still in his late 20s. Maybe that makes him an elder statesman by pop-punk standards, but he seems in far too much of a hurry to get old in this overly sedate effort.
The first three tracks are terrific, though, and if you only listened that far, you'd expect to be in for a real rock gem, before all the sleepiness sets in.
"Someday's Gone" opens the proceedings with an assaultive guitar blast and emo pleadings right out of the Weezer songbook. The single, "Beekeeper's Daughter," throws a horn section into the mix and achieves a nice balance between the old insolence and something fresher, with assistance from producer Greg Wells (Adele, Katy Perry, One Republic). "Fast and Slow," easily the album's most fun selection, locks into an irresistibly train-like pace while telling the story of a relationship torn asunder by competing rhythms.
But track 4, "Heartbeat Slowing Down," lives up (or down) to its name, flirting with goo and sounding like the sort of thing that gets branded a sellout even if it was ripped straight from the singer's lovelorn ticker. And from there, the pace never completely picks up again, although the bitter "Walk Over Me" momentarily reestablishes that the band still has a fighting spirit.
Growing up and out of the Warped Tour sound and mentality is to be encouraged, of course. And the Rejects always had a better shot at that than most, due in part to Ritter's edgy, adaptable voice, which landed him miles ahead of the whiny chops of a lot of his erstwhile pop-punk contemporaries.
But the middle ground between their musical adolescence and old-fogeydom should have lasted longer than the first three songs of a single album.