The Almost’s new album, “Monster Monster” doesn’t offer me a lot musically, but I like the idea.
As opposed to so many faceless pop punk acts and indie rock bands that we’ve all suffered through over the years, The Almost have produced an album that’s easy to listen to, has a freer feel, and doesn’t try to push some forced and faked heavy-handed message on the listener. Rather than stress a personal anguish that the band probably doesn’t really feel, or leaden their music in an ill-advised attempt to appeal to the emotional distress of the hormonally confused teenage listener, The Almost just plays and lets the pieces fall into place on their own.
On the good side, there are a number instrumental choices here that serve to make the melodies more interesting, like the piano playing softly during the verses of “Souls on Ten,” or the heavy drum intro with distorted, muddy guitars on “Books and Books.” The occasional acoustic, almost country feel lends the album a little diversity. Overall, the music is bouncy and has an airy quality that often gets lost in the shuffle of this kind of music. If there is such a thing as “easy listening punk,” this might be it. When it’s all over, “Monster Monster” is an easily assimilated album that doesn’t ask the listener to bathe in its musical complexity or dense philosophical paradigms.
The other side of that coin is that The Almost doesn’t challenge the listener. The music is clean and crisp, but would be too easily lost among material that makes more of a statement. “Monster Monster” doesn’t do anything particularly new; it is a collection of pop punk sing-alongs, indie rock also-rans and the occasional heartfelt ballad.
The band gets bonus points for having originality in what can be a very narrow genre, but doesn’t do enough to create a truly memorable experience. The album loses its identity, or perhaps more appropriately, suffers from having two. The front half of the album, with the title track, “Lonely Wheel,” and a small list of others, creates a very light punk image. Once you hit the halfway point though, the entire attitude fades into the ether, and is replaced by a much softer and less effective line of soft rock stories and indie pieces. The culmination, in a kind of twisted irony, is that the first song, “Monster Monster,” and the last song, “Monster,” represent the best of each half, and are the best two songs on the album. So the bookends work, but the median becomes kind of blurred.
It’s tough to totally write this off, as I find it more palatable than the Blink-182s of the world, but that comes with the corollary that I don’t think I’m going to be running around telling people about it, either. Judge for yourself, but be advised that if this is not your style of music (and it is not mine,) it won’t change your mind about the genre. Not a disposable effort, but it could have been more.