Island Records, 2009

REVIEW BY: Mike Cirelli


The good news: Dan Estrin’s formerly hackneyed riffage is all sharp-edged, Slash-style coolness, owing more to the epic blades of Guns N’ Roses or Rise Against than their usual platter of Nickelback platitudes. Where 2006’s Every Man For Himself submerged itself in weak post-grunge clichés and lame anthems, For(N)ever is a more refined and sophisticated rock album. They’re still targeting Top 40 and alternative stations, but it’s a little less shameless this time. The pop rock stinkers even get a little experimental in “Tears Of Yesterday,” a ballad with an endearingly avant-garde cushion of spirited piano and swirling violins. It’s nothing to rave about, but it sure as heck beats “The Reason.”my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The bad news: Douglas Robb’s vocals are as impassioned and overemphatic as ever. While he can do a husky yelp pretty well (check out his chops in “My Turn,” a surprisingly slick rocker), his singing needs work. He enunciates every syllable like a doomed American Idol contestant, and it doesn’t help that he tries to tackle the big arena-rock sound favored by bands like Linkin Park. In “The Letter,” a lascivious tale of infidelity and secret sublunary meetings, Robb’s whiny tenor gets lost amid the shuffling acoustic and crunchy electric guitars.

Despite the improving song production, the lyrics are still uninspired breakup poetry. This is a band with absolutely nothing to say about the bustling state of American politics or society. In “Sick of Hanging On,” he so eloquently states, “Anything sounds better than waiting on your forever,” and then, one song later, he’s wailing about how he needs his current lover more than ever.

Sometimes the songs get sucked into vapid arena-rock black holes, but most of the time, Dan Estrin’s adroit guitar burbles compensate. Where his sufficient solos sometimes felt out of place in the weepy, emotional overthrows of the band’s former albums, For(N)ever is a fitting showcase of his shredding talent. If Hoobastank would just tone down the pointless histrionics a little bit (and maybe start choosing better band and album names), they could craft some pretty potent hard rock.

Rating: C-

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