Don't let the introduction by hip-hop master Jay-Z or the fact that R&B/pop producer Babyface helmed some of the tracks fool you--this is a good ol' rock album full of big sounding guitars, big choruses and drums hit until you're sure the skins will bust. "Thriller," named after the Michael Jackson classic in yet another pop/R&B reference, dials up the electric guitar and includes enough lyrical references about the trappings of fame to you let you know this is a band whose fame is fairly new--developed between this and their first album, From Under the Cork Tree. Similar "The Take Over, The Break's Over" follows with bursting guitar and drums.
As upbeat as the first two tracks are, they're pretty mid-tempo compared to the album's first gem "This Ain't a Scene It's an Arms Race," a dramatic rant against the "emo" scene that punches the first two words of the lyric "god damn arms race" to reinforce the swear before launching into a manic sped up chorus. It's the best power pop/rock song on the album. The album's other major hit, the upbeat "Thnks fr th Mmrs" (you fill in the vowels) is a dramatic hit with orchestral flourishes biding time before the big, guitar-drenched chorus.
Though they do it well, the band can do other than big, loud, brassy numbers. Mid-tempo "I'm Like a Lawyer with the Way I'm Always Trying to Get You Off (Me and You)" has a plodding rhythm in the verses and a great hook in the melodic chorus. And "Golden" shows the band can also slow down the rhythm to do a lovely piano ballad, that, unlike a lot of bands that use perhaps a few chords or tinkles from a piano, actually manages to use a good deal of its dynamic range.
These songs, along with rollicking "Fame < Infamy," are my favorite tracks. A lot of the rest kind of sounds the same--loud, upbeat, guitar rock, such as "Hum Hallelujah," "The Carpal Tunnel of Love," and "Bang the Doldrums." The only other distinctive track for me was the final number, "I've Got All This Ringing in My Ears and None on My Fingers," which has a really cool opening with horns and uses piano throughout with little dramatic pauses.
Not a classic, but not bad. Probably one of the better hard rock albums I heard this year--certainly better than the disappointing An End Has a Start from the Editors. Seems a little too obsessed with singing about fame though; hopefully they'll grow out of it.
Best: Thnks fr the Mmrs, This Ain't a Scene It's an Arms Race, Me and You, Golden, Fame < Infamy, I've Got All This Ringing in My Ears and None on My Fingers