The only thing more nonexistent than dinosaurs, aliens, zombies, or vampires these past 3 years was the debut album from the happy go lucky California quartet, Hellogoodbye. A stolen laptop with demos and leadman Forrest Kline’s struggle with his A.D.D. lead to numerous delays that made fans impatient or, even worse, just plain giving up on the band. But, finally Hellogoodbye have emerged from the darkness to release their debut album, Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!!, through Drive Thru Records and what we get is a mixed bag of surprises, disappointments, cheesiness, and fun. Really though, should we really expect anything serious or groundbreaking with an album title like this and a band with a track history of goofiness like Hellogoodbye? I wouldn’t think so, and you would be wise to listen to this eleven-track album with an open mind and check your “scenester/elitist/holier-than-thou” attitude at the door.
First off, let’s cut to what makes this album so incredibly mediocre. The use of the vodcoder is the first culprit, as it does nothing but ruin catchy songs such as “All Your Love” and “Touchdown Turnaround.” Forrest has an above average voice and for him to waste that on silly effects just takes away most of the fun from those tracks and makes him sound like Cher on karaoke night. My next beef is the complete lack of trust in the full band sound. We get it, one of HGB’s gimmick’s is Jesse Kurvink’s energetic keyboard skills and programming, but seriously, shouldn’t more than fifty percent of your album include bassist Marcus Cole, drummer Chris Profeta, or even Forrest’s guitar? Cause when Hellogoodbye actually follows that format, they can write a pretty damn good pop tune. This formula isn’t entire foolproof, as shown when they try to slow it down with “Two Weeks In Hawaii.” The album closer, it really drags on. It kills the vibe and closes the album on a downer. Finally, my last major grief is Forrest’s lyrics. Sure, this is a fun and easy-going band, but seriously, some of the stuff he writes reminds of the poetry I wrote in the eighth grade. Come on, you had three years to write this, I do expect just a bit of a better display of writing here. All I can ask here is that, for album number two, the band builds off of the solid formula shown in tracks like “All Time Lows” and “Baby, It’s A Fact,” that Forrest puts more faith in his vocals rather than some machine, and that the band branches out just a little bit on their songwriting abilities.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let me tell you what’s good on this album and why you should consider purchasing this. While tracks like the aforementioned “All Your Love” and “Here In Your Arms” really start the album poorly, I ask that you tough it out to get to track three, which is the hyperactive “All Time Lows,” a track that reminds me of their EP. This song is the perfect example of how HGB should write their songs: keep the energy level up with Forrest’s guitar and Chris’s drummer, keep the bass groovy, and let Jesse interject with quirky keyboard chords. This isn’t only probably the best song on the album, but should be the “Shimmy Shimmy Quarter Turn” that makes these guys even bigger than they are now. “Homewrecker” is a bouncy track with a little guitar riff that pops in and out during the verses and is about as “rock and roll” that the album will get. Hellogoodbye slows it down with the folky “Oh It Is Love,” a track that features the rare occurrence of the band as stripped down as can be. “Baby, It’s Fact” is a great pop song, as Jesse’s keys and the gentle, upbeat vibe that reminds me of The Format. “Figures A And B (Means You And Me)” again showcases what Forrest and company do best: the spazzed-out electronica song. Here, Hellogoodbye balances out the use of electronics and actual band noises very well; if only they could be consistent with that, then this album would be a whole lot stronger. Basically what you will find is that the opening and closing tracks are really bad, but the middle portion of the album redeems itself as the fun pop record it’s supposed to be.
I’ll be completely honest, the first time I listened to this album I thought it was complete trash. I was pissed that this was the best effort Hellogoodbye could give us after three years of waiting and was appalled at how many “old” demos made the cut. Fact is, I’m still pretty pissed about that, but after a few more listens, I began to appreciate most of the songs for what they are: fun pop music that is supposed to make you smile and shake your ass. Nothing more, nothing less. Yes, there is still a lot of crap on here and it’s not going to be an album that appears on many best of lists. But I cannot say I was disappointed, because, really, I had no expectations for it. After three years of waiting, I had no clue what was going to appear on this album, nor did I care. In the end, I just wanted an album from Hellogoodbye that would leave a smile on my face. This doesn’t mean I’m gonna give them a free pass on poor lyrics and musicianship, but I am not going to completely write it off. In the end, Hellogoodbye achieved what they wanted to achieve in the first place: write an album that, one, they enjoy playing, and, two, an album that reflects their personality. We aren’t going to receive any crazy 15 minute long post-rock experimental songs from a band that dresses up in various fruit and vegetable costumes and shoot silly string on stage. What you should expect is an album that’ll make you roll down the windows, crank it up loud, and have you shouting from the top of your lungs on a summer day, and Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs! does an excellent job at that.