The spunky Would It Kill You? is less follow-up than shocking metamorphosis for California rockers Hellogoodbye, who have cast aside the indie synth habits of their unfortunately titled 2006 debut, Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!, for a completely straightforward yet still playful pop sound. The closest approximation to the transformation is if A Fine Frenzy ditched her piano for guitars but kept all of the racing, quirky-sweet romanticism. The departure of longtime keyboardist Jesse Kurvink has apparently removed all of the electro angst and emo posturing, leaving behind a group newly baptized by sentimentality and content to put what is essentially love letters to catchy, hook-driven music.
Despite how safe that description sounds and how harmless it ultimately plays out, Would It Kill You? is an ironically refreshing change of pace: The result of a band following its natural instincts in the face of producing something edgier but far less sincere. Fortunately, Hellogoodbye has stopped attempting to emulate the awful sound of Panic! at the Disco and instead found a warm niche at which they’re clearly more talented and comfortable. Leadman Forrest Kline is confident in his role as the affected poet with a guitar, eagerly breathless as he and his bandmates chase ideas and melodies through 11 breezy tracks.
The title track dissolves from its loose, acoustic sprint into similarly soft-but-frantic pieces such as “You Sleep Alone” and “Betrayed By Bones.” There are also dreamy, bittersweet counterparts, like “Something You Misplaced,” in which Forrest’s cracked whispers alternate with the bell-like rain of piano notes. Here, Hellogoodbye celebrates their conversion into pop masters by finally putting all the sweet and airy elements together into perfect cooperation.