So this is the Hollywood effect, huh?
A half-decade ago, Boys Like Girls (BLG) were a hard-charging Boston quartet that wrote commercially accessible power-pop with tinges of punk and shared bills with the likes of Spitalfield, Punchline and All Time Low. Heck, one publication even referenced them as 2007’s version of Fall Out Boy. Yet here we are in the latter stages of 2012 and Boys Like Girls sounds distinctly distant from that framework they once laid. To put it succinctly, they sound more like Train than that of Fall Out Boy.
Whether this has anything to do with Johnson’s relocation to California and his time spent with the likes of Miley Cyrus, Victoria Justice and Hot Chelle Rae, to name a few, is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for certain, when it comes to writing pop hooks few are better than him, and Crazy World is set out to prove exactly that. Whereas 2009’s Love Drunk felt like a band trying too hard, Crazy World finds the quartet swimming in their newfound contentment and reveling in their pop gloss. Any way you slice it, there’s no denying frontman Martin Johnson’s talent for pop hooks and Crazy World is chock full.
Album opener “First Time,” is a dash of synth-inspired bubblegum pop that is a sun-splashed look at nostalgia and is anchored by a bursting chorus. While “First Time,” won’t do much in the way of provoking thought, it is arguably one of Johnson’s best vocal contributions to date and highlights the first of many efforts in which the Massachusetts songwriter sounds definitively more mature and comfortable. The guitar-driven “Life of the Party,” is more light-hearted and bubbly than its predecessor and feels like a cheap radio song (see Train, Miley Cyrus, etc) but has a generous hook and the trappings of summer from the very first second.
The title track veers slightly towards Owl City and is another installment of candy-coated pop with an arresting hook. Once again, Johnson’s vocals sound absolutely immaculate and one can already see the strides he has made in heightening his craft. Anyone who found favor with “Two is Better Than One,” will find plenty of reason to adore the bursting power ballad “Be Your Everything,” which is arguably as strong a ballad as any the band has written to date.
For hints of the band’s beginnings, the closest thing to that on Crazy World is “Stuck in the Middle,” a straightforward and non-glossy cut of pristine pop-rock. And it is here that Crazy World actually finds its footing and delivers some of the disc’s best songs. “Cheated,” is harmless and boasts a stunning chorus, while “Shoot,” feels very much like “First Time,” redux. While for many bands this would be a negative, for BLG this actually works well. There’s even a slight country tilt to it and from start to finish, “Shoot,” is a firecracker.
Not content with just one power ballad, Johnson and Co. leave it all on the table with the piano-based “Leaving California.” But all the charms and cheers that “Leaving California,” brings are shortly suffocated by the god awful “Take Me Home,” and the even weaker “Party Cup.” As if cognizant of this, Johnson and Co. close things out with “Hey You,” which might easily be the best song BLG has ever written. While it feels a bit premature to use the words transcendent when referencing BLG, “Hey You,” might be the exception to that statement.
Over and done in less than 45 minutes, Crazy World is a fine album from a band who seems comfortable with their place in the landscape of contemporary music. Though they are miles removed from the sonic terrain of their humble beginnings, they are surging forward with this new path, and if the amount of potential chart-toppers on Crazy Worldare any indication, it’s a path paved with platinum.