Somewhere along the line, every successful band has to decide to either keep the trajectory of the first single that made them famous, or to shake things up and try something that pushes them in a new direction. For about eleven years now, Hoobastank, the four-man alternative band out of Southern California has been putting out the same type of radio friendly, rock-tinged tunes, and pushing things toward the same general bearing, but heading there full-force.
With hits over the years like “Crawling in the Dark,” “If I Were You,” and their behemoth single, “The Reason,” Hoobastank cemented a loyal fanbase, and has released four major records leading up to this year’s Fight or Flight. The disc, which marks their first as an independent act, was pushed back from a late July release date to compete with the Fall rush of big releases. But how will it fare against heavyweights like Mumford and Sons, Dave Matthews Band, and The Killers?
I was interested to see where the quartet would go as an unhindered independent band, but like the lyrics of their 2004 single state, “I’m not sure which way to go, because all along we’ve been going in the same direction.” First single, “This Is Gonna Hurt,” is as hard-hitting a rock song as they’ve ever put out, with shades of “Out Of Control” and more of their first album’s sound. Lyrically, vocalist Doug Robb sounds bitter singing “This is gonna hurt you more than it hurts me, and I don’t want to hurt, that’s why I’m gonna hurt you.” Then he does a complete one-eighty on track two and sings instead, “I’d do anything for you, I always will put you before me.” I’m still confused on the direction…
From there, the album fluctuates from edgier rock tunes to more mellow love songs similar to “The Reason,” perhaps never as obviously as “Sing What You Can’t Say.” The nearly-identical track verges on saccharine sweet with lyrics like “Three little words should say it all, they just won’t do tonight,” and it almost negates the harder tracks. It’s not that they can’t do love songs either: There is actually a very pretty ode to Robb’s daughter on the track “Magnolia,” so they definitely can pull them off.
I much prefer their edgier side, and the more meaningful lyrics like on “No Win Situation.” Robb perfectly defines the love/hate relationship with the straightforward rocker, where he laments the power a woman has over him and his unhealthy addiction, and it ties so perfectly in with Paul’s message to the Romans about sin. Robb sings “I know that you’re no good for me, poisonous but I can’t leave.”
Try This Track: “This Is Gonna Hurt”