It seems these days any group of guys can put out a pop-punk album. Forever The Sickest Kids' debut release 'Underdog Alma Mater' tries to blend pop-punk and techno with little success.
Reminiscent of Hellogoodbye and Powerspace, FTSK use heavy electronics and energetic riffs to lure the listener into shallow music. Although a well crafted pop-punk record, 'Underdog Alma Mater' is littered with overused breakup themes and poor lyrics.
Woah, Oh (Me vs. Everyone)"" leads off the album and sets the scene for a generic punk band. Its chorus lacks creativity, repeating ""Whoa oh whoa whoa oh / Why do I put myself in these situations?"" Rather than filling holes in the songs with guitar riffs or keyboard anthems, the band turn to yelling ""whoa oh"" until the next verse or chorus.
""My Worst Nightmare"" and ""Believe Me, I'm Lying"" are both catchy songs you can't help but dance or tap your foot along to. Electronic drum beats and infectious synthesizer backups give real energy to the relatively depressing songs. Without really listening to the lyrics, one would assume they're all happy. However, lead singer Jonathan Cook sings ""Go ahead and cry yourself to sleep / And think how you hate me so bad.""
Things slow down mid-album with ""She's A Lady."" Here, Cook proves the band has some potential through his strong lyrics. He handles the wide range of the song from the near a cappella bridge to the intense finale. FTSK pull through on this rock ballad with a dynamic song. This is one of the few songs on the album that feature diverse lyrics and good musical flow.
They disappoint, however, by following it with more generic pop-punk songs like ""Uh Huh"" and ""Phone Call."" By this point, it would have been nice to stray from the teenager themes, but FTSK fail to change. They switch from heartbreak to a new love and back again in one song. Starting out singing ""You're taking me places I've never been"" the feeling quickly changes to one of devastation and the slight stalker-esque line, ""Through 97 missed calls I'll finally get over you."" It's no wonder the girl doesn't want to be with him.
Toward the end, an example of strong songwriting finally appears again.
""Coffee Break"" is the one sign that Forever The Sickest Kids have potential as a band. Everything is slowed down, and Cook's vocals are backed up by light acoustic guitar and the perfect amount of orchestration and vocal harmony.
It's the one change from high-school drama and a sign of growing up, giving hope for a more mature sophomore album down the road.
Certainly not the best in any sense, Forever The Sickest Kids did something right, putting out a record full of teenage anthems. There's no doubt 'Underdog Alma Mater_ will make Forever The Sickest Kids popular among teenage girls and successful in the ever-growing yet never better pop-punk scene.