Sound: Hoobastank's biggest commercial moment was undoubtedly 2003's power ballad The Reason. Love it or loathe it, the song delivered on many levels. The chorus is still one of the best things we've heard on modern rock radio in the 00's so far. With multi-platinum sales now under their belt, the California band went into their next album, Every Man For Himself (2006) with expectations aimed high. Unfortunately there wasn't anything near the brilliance of The Reason on it and they quickly faded from the international consciousness. Taking a couple of years to regroup, Hoobastank have returned with the awkwardly titled For(N)ever.
Right from the start things don't seem all that promising. My Turn sounds like a long-lost b-side from their major label debut. What we mean by that is that it sounds like it was written and recorded in 2001. The guitar tone has nu-metal in its DNA and as you can imagine, it gets tiring really quick. Luckily the album rebounds a bit on Don't Think I Love You with its big chorus and interesting counter guitar melody but things go south again on the middling So Close, So Far. Its clear Hoobastank were trying to create another radio monster but the track just plods along never revealing a moment worth remembering. You know these guys can craft this kind of stuff well at times but the songs here just don't cut it. // 5
Lyrics: No one will ever accuse Doug Robb of being a bad vocalist. He remains the band's strongest asset and his singing here proves that. On All About You he turns in another passionate performance echoing one of Hoobastank's early singles, Crawling in the Dark. Too bad he has to deliver lyrical atrocities like, I write your name in my breath on the window/sit and watch as it fades away. Those are the kinds of lines you would read in a 13 year old girl's diary not on a proper rock record. The rest of the songs suffer from the same fate with one lightweight line after the other. Robb saves the material from falling apart all-together so he should be commended for keeping the boat afloat, so to speak. Maybe the next time out the band could bring in some outside help to work on the words with them because they could use the help. The 7 rating we gave them here is solely for Robb. // 7
Overall Impression: Guitarist Dan Estrin shows off his formidable chops on tracks like Gone Gone Gone and All About You with hard-edged riffing and air-tight stop and go rhythms. He's the kind of player who never gets in the way of a song so his performances are wisely economic. Howard Benson (Flyleaf and a lot of other bands you hear on the radio) clocks in with another by-the-numbers production job. The synthetic guitar sound suffocates the entire recording even burying some of the hopeful moments. The entire albums sounds like every other band fighting to get on the cover of Alternative Press magazine. The only thing he doesn't flub is Robb's vocals. Often labeled as mere Incubus clones, For(n)ever won't do much to fight off the haters. Where the aforementioned weave intricate tempo shifts and non-conventional guitar lines into their modern-rock hits, Hoobastank keep things much simpler, streamlining their sound into something more straight-forward. Nothing's inherently wrong with that but when the big hooks don't appear; all you're left with is a bunch of forgettable tunes. // 5
- Carlos Ramirez (c) 2009