Given the first four or five minutes of Hoobastank’s latest angst-fest, Every Man For Himself, you’d think they might finally have something to say. American Idiot made statements for the opposition popular with the 13-17 set, followed closely by V For Vendetta, so even if “Born To Lead” is little more than a retread of the same ideas, there’s at least a tad bit of hope that Hoobastank can get out of their formulaic rut for 45 minutes and give the kids something to think about while they’re air-guitaring in their parents’ basement.
The notion that “Born To Lead”—backed by an R. Lee Ermey wannabe barking at soldiers that they’re little more than automatons—is a sign of progress, though, are dashed so quickly that you feel absolutely sick that you bought into them in the first place. And it’s not that the angst and emo-lite throughout the rest of the album is poor on principle. Its arrangement and production’s awkwardness are only matched by the juxtaposition of MySpace deepness with the litest of Linkin Park hardcore available. Jumping wildly from subject to subject, the album is akin to a psychological survey on depression that wants to cover its ass—discuss sadness, but make sure you have something happy in between so we’re not liable if you off yourself.
The most egregious step, though, comes when the band decides to jump on another burgeoning bandwagon, that of dance-rock, and simultaneously steals and ruins the drum kick and bassline of “Take Me Out.” If the album is just playing for the adolescent male set, “Inside Of You” is every bit the degrading, gender-reductive garbage that “My Humps” is. Calling out “What do I have to do to get inside of you, to get inside of you/‘Cause I love the way you move when I’m inside of you, when I’m inside of you” on the hook and reducing romance to a game of cat and mouse toward the bedroom is insulting and irresponsible, particularly when sandwiched between tracks on social anxiety and coming to terms with that disorder. And why is there a dance-rock track on an album that also features mournful strings and Ron Burgundy’s jazz flute?
Every Man For Himself is every bit the crafted material an American Idol album is (not including Breakaway); there’s nothing to identify the album as Hoobastank as opposed to Yellowcard, than Doug Robb’s voice. Every track is crafted precisely to touch on some teenage plight that the performers most certainly are not in the middle of themselves. For every “Look Where We Are,” actually encouraging some thought and consideration of one’s surroundings backed by a serviceable ‘80s guitar lick, there’s the song for someone still pining for the mistreated girl who got away, like lead single “If I Were You.” But, remember, if she won’t come back, we’ll keep trying and live on in our perfect anthemic universe with follower “Without A Fight.” “Born To Lead,” perhaps the band’s sole relevant track to date, feels less like a step forward in the final analysis and more just another attempt to ride a wave popular among their demo.