Published Jun 11, 2019The year is 2004. You've spent the weekend playing Tony Hawk's Underground on the original Xbox, and you can't get enough of the soundtrack. Nor can you stop listening to American Idiot, Catalyst and Ocean Avenue. Your classmates keep talking about a new rapper named Kanye West. You've been chatting all day with your best friend on MSN Messenger and now your keyboard is lightly dusted with guacamole Doritos. Neither of you can stop trading Anchorman and Napoleon Dynamite quotes on your new MySpace pages. You're grieving the loss of Pepsi Blue. Otherwise, life is good.
This is more or less what it feels like to listen to We Outspoken. The Toronto band's fourth album, State of the Art, sounds like a lost relic from the days when a pop punk band could sell more than three million units in a year. Granted, the genre certainly isn't known for change or innovation, but set against the subtly modernized sound of the present era, this record feels especially like it's 15 years older than it actually is.
The band's resume reaffirms their position as a nostalgia act for mid-'00s commercial punk. Formed in 2008, they've toured with the Ataris, their songs were featured in a longboarding video game called Downhill Xtreme, and they're signed to the record label of NOFX's Aaron Abeyta. State of the Art sticks to a decades-old formula: upbeat rhythms, major chord progressions, catchy choruses with crystal-clear harmonies and lyrics about how being young is good and getting older, maybe not so good.
That being said, State of the Art is fairly good for what it is. It's a nicely produced record and the band do what they do well. "Break Away," "Last Summer" and "Nothing Lasts Forever" may have clichéd titles, but they also have strong hooks. "For Now" pumps up the energy, with a little help from guest Tom Thacker of Gob (and later Sum 41).
But over the course of 45 minutes, there's woefully little heterogeneity. For a certain type of listener, most of these songs are pleasant enough to be enjoyed with the type of carefree indulgence of re-watching Friends (or streaming a newer show that reminds you of Friends). But if you've heard a few, you've heard them all. (Cyber Tracks)