Sound — 5
The All-American Rejects first garnered recognition with 2002's self-titled debut, which featured the hit single "Swing, Swing" and rocketed Tyson Ritter and Nick Wheeler into platinum success. Shortly following the release, the band introduced Mike Kennerty and replaced touring drummer Tim Campbell with Chris Gaylor. Having stabilized a full lineup and later released a gold-certified live album, the band brought Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance's "Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge"; P.O.D.'s "Satellite") aboard to produce a follow-up to "The All-American Rejects". 2005 saw the release of "Move Along", which quickly outsold its predecessor and saw greater mainstream attention brought to the band. As an album catered (to an extent, castrated) to the masses, "Move Along" consists primarily of radio-friendly rock/pop. The record is squeaky-clean and profusely safe, blending perfectly with bands of the mid-2000s emo movement. Each track is ready-made for as much airtime as the band's squealing pseudo-punk/pop fans could possibly ask for less grueling than My Chemical Romance, less sex-driven than Fall Out Boy; a thirteen-year-parent's delight! The title track rolls along with instrumentation miraculously less standard than Green Day, and lyrics as bland as any of Benson's previous releases. "Dirty Little Secret" is dangerously safe, "Night Drive" is a less-than-intense rocker, and album closer "Can't Take It" mercilessly grinds three minutes away with attempted genuinity. "It Ends Tonight" is nice in the same way a Van Hagar ballad is; it wears off after the twelfth or eleventh radio reprise. Of course, radio stations wouldn't have spun the record as many times as they did if they didn't love it, right? More disabling to this record than its standard composition and iffy production is its tracklist not the tracks comprising the record, but quite literally the order in which they're presented. "Dirty Little Secret" isn't an opener as much as an opening track, and "It Ends Tonight" is, bizarrely, a track four placeholder. "Straitjacket Feeling" attempts to slow the album down without realizing that "Top Of The World" had already done the job (unintentionally), and "Can't Take It", strangely enough, exists in the first place. Generally speaking, the album really is just a jumbled mess of safe songs, even if "11:11 PM" is a nice little tune and "Change Your Mind" is a great mixture of the band's two releases. The greatest weakness is truly how thinly veiled weakness among the tracks truly is; many of the tracks on their debut fell short, but at the very least, fun was had in their earnestness. Not a single track on "Move Along" tries, and the radio loves it for that simple fact. To some extent, perhaps they didn't need to try; some of them are deceptively good. It certainly isn't an entirely wasted forty minutes, but any amount of flair (beyond greater production value and a full band) would have aided the record in vying for some kind of substance. At the very least, the album stood as the definitive All-American Rejects release for the remainder of the decade, though when broken down, the only curve worthy of note is the conspicuous absence of one.
Lyrics — 4
The All-American Rejects is one of the greatest offenders in 2000s rock/pop/emo/etc. Tyson Ritter not only takes a cheese grater to the ears more often than not, but apparently does so to paper along the way. Lyrically and vocally, "Move Along" is a real bummer. As in the case of production and composition, the album is ready-made for the airwaves, from "Dance Inside" 's barely-suggestive groove to "Top of the World" 's slightly-ethnic cuts. The laziest of these is "Can't Take It", a real climax-killer (not in the "No, I am your father" sort of way, either). "You speak to me/I know this will be temporary/You ask to leave/But I can tell you that I've had enough" and so on. Amateurish whining for the most part; "You might as well just do it alone" ends the chorus. "Stab My Back" boasts "And now we're broken on the floor... /It hasn't been this way before" and "The phone rings/And she screams." Monosyllabic rhymes seen in any second-rate rock/pop act, topped off with Ritter's awful, awful voice. The saddest fact of the record is that, as bad as Ritter often is and as run-of-the-mill as the lyrics are, it goes mostly unnoticed until "Can't Take It". The eleven tracks before it are mostly dignified, but when that ending rolls in, a sullen fact sets in: you're forty minutes older and listened to a twenty-year-old whine about girls for the entirety of the time passed. Defeated and ashamed, you slam the CD player shut and toss a used copy of "Move Along" to the ground. How could this ridiculously flawed record have thwarted you with such ease? And, as the sunlight breaks into the misty mid-day, you realize: safety. Because, ultimately, Ritter's bad vocals and dreadful lyrics are safe. They're what America is paying to hear in 2005. What a rude awakening.
Overall Impression — 5
Though "The All-American Rejects" introduced the band as a somewhat-flexible little rock/pop act with some sensibility for a good radio tune, "Move Along" severely overstays its welcome. Quite apart from the freshness of the debut, it feels all too familiar from the first listen. It certainly accomplishes that which it sets out to, but perhaps this is the Rejects selling out in the truest sense potential greatness sacrificed for ready-made popularity. This isn't always a bad thing, but anyone approaching the band with some sort of enthusiasm is in for a stalemate: the record doesn't impress nearly as often as it apathetically occupies. "Move Along" is designed to fill dead air, and that is the one and only thing it accomplishes albeit, establishing itself as the band's big break along the way.