Sound: With a gold album and at least one hit single (Addicted) under the quintet's belt, Saving Abel possibly didn't want to ruffle any fans' feathers going into its 2nd studio recording. Upon hearing the self-titled debut's follow-up, Miss America, it's hard not to come to that conclusion. For better or worse, the 11 new tracks don't stray far from the Addicted songwriting format, with the song Contagious being the apple that falls closest to that musical tree. It's a logical step if you're looking at it from a business end, but in the end Miss America just seems rather uninspired and stale.
As a cohesive unit, Saving Abel does have top-notch chemistry and Jared Weeks makes for a consistently strong frontman. But when you take inventory of the number of clichs delivered in the course of one album, it's somewhat exhausting. On one hand you have the testosterone-driven, destined-for-a-UFC-appearance single Tap Out. That track does have an infectious chorus that is the most memorable on the CD, but the whole idea has been rehashed by every middle-of-the-road rock bands these days. Stupid Girl (Only In Hollywood) revisits the theme of a girl looking to make it in Hollywood (with sour results). Although that tracks contains a more interesting, introspective musical vibe, it still fails to deliver anything truly fresh.
The band shines when it takes a turn toward a much down-home, bluesier side. The prime example arrives in The Sex Is Good, which although by the title could have been your staple sleazy rock song, is drenched in a stripped-down acoustic sound. The closing number Hell of a Ride takes a turn for a more Delta blues-inspired vibe as well, with Jason Null breaking out the slide guitar. It does represent one of the best offerings on Miss America, and the band made a wise choice in making that the big closer. // 7
Lyrics: It's hard to pick out lyrics that aren't your run-of-mill rock fare on the 2nd record. You do have to give Saving Abel credit for giving its CD and/or title track a bit of a double meaning. Sure, there's a pin-up girl brandishing the cover and you might assume the song Miss America would be all about cheesecake. But the band surprises listeners by focusing the theme upon US soldiers who risk their lives each day. Unfortunately the rest of the titles do become a bit trite, whether the band calls upon familiar rhyme schemes in I Need You (I need you like the sun needs the rainI need you; Say you'll need me, too) or discusses a jaded girl in Hollywood (I'm sorry for all the clouds in your life; You always were the kind who loved the rainy nights). // 7
Overall Impression: At the heart of Saving Abel is actually a pleasing sound that has plenty of potential, but Miss America is just stuck in the status quo. With the exception of The Sex Is Good and Hell of a Ride, the music is often interchangeable with a lot of the band's musical peers. I am certainly not anti-ballad, but I Need You and Angel Without Wings are two of the most predictable in the bunch. But again, that may not be the point. If the mission is to keep the same fans and sell the same amount of albums, then Miss America might have accomplished its goal in full. // 6