One of the perks of being a credible music journalist for a major weekly is that record labels are always sending you free promo CDs, hoping you'll find the time to shine the light of your critical expertise upon them (and liberally quote the press kit). Unfortunately, as a totally unknown and non-credible music journalist, this perk doesn't extend to me; nobody sends me jack shit.
Imagine my surprise, then, when my editor told me there was a promo package with my name on it. And as if that weren't exciting enough, it was even labeled with dramatic urgency: "PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS — OPEN IMMEDIATELY."
Hollywood Records, the Disney-owned label that carries the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, etc., has urgently dispatched to me a record called Suddenly by Allstar Weekend. I'll be damned if I know why they did it — maybe they caught me pretending to dig Justin Bieber — but I was so grateful for their gift that I feel I owe them a review.
Before I put on the CD, let's check out the press kit for a little background. It gets off to an auspicious start: "In early 2009 the members of San Diego's Allstar Weekend drove up to Los Angeles to hand out flyers outside the premiere of Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience." Shrewd teen demography and grassroots self-promotion, huh? We're clearly dealing with some ambitious young dudes who aren't afraid to go out on a limb and reveal what unforgivable dweebs they are in the first sentence of their press kit.
It doesn't get much better from there: they're heavily influenced by Blink-182, they "do all the things that normal teenagers do," and the they derive their name "from the Smash Mouth song 'All Star' and the fun time associated with weekends." No! I don't care if that's how you got your name, kids: don't ever tell anyone about that. That's the single most repulsive band-name-origin story in history, and it just gets weirder and more depressing when you realize that these dudes were like five when "All Star" came out.
I'm not too hyped about opening the case, but let's dive in. The cover folds out into a mini-poster; the band members pose amid a groaningly "wacky" suburban scene of mind-bogglingly disastrous photoshopping, where businessmen teeter on roofs and robots catch on fire and all laws of perspective and proportion are laid aside because the designer had only six hours to cobble it together and who gives a shit anyway? On the flip side, we can read the brilliant lyrics: "Is my fate up to me, or is it run by a computer?/Will my kids go to school, or stay at home in the future?/Is there peace, is there war, what's the score?/I don't want to be surprised."
I guess I can't get through this whole thing without listening to the record, but at least it's mercifully brief — just seven songs, because if Disney waited for them to write a whole album's worth, they might turn 17 and be all weird and gross. So what does it sound like? It sounds precisely like what it is: four dorks who love Blink-182 doing a Radio Disney record. Four dorks flyering a Jonas Brothers movie and naming their band after a Smash Mouth song. "I don't want to be surprised" indeed — and I'm not. I can't even picture a 12-year-old girl liking something this tepid, especially in a market where she could choose the feathered sexual majesty of Justin Bieber's hair.