Every Avenue has long been a band for the weak of heart and light of stomach. While equipped with the makings of a traditional rock band, the Michigan-based act is known for an extremely saccharine brand of pop-punk in line with the sunny side of the Glamour Kills roster. Indeed, the band’s previous two albums, 2008’s Shh. Just Go With It and 2009’s Picture Perfect, were, even at their most melancholy, textbook studies in sugary pop-rock. However, with Bad Habits, Every Avenue’s latest release, this generalization of the band’s sound must be rethought. While still bouncy and catchy, the group’s summery sound has been replaced by an anger and grit that sounds more like early Anberlin than All Time Low (a fact which may be contributed to producer Aaron Sprinkle, who incidentally helmed Anberlin’s first three records).
Indeed, the album itself begins with an extremely apt phrase; before the opening notes of “Tie Me Down” even begin, a strange man says “Okay, we saw what he can do with a .22 rifle, now let’s see what he can do with a tactical 12 gauge.” Indeed, the album itself ups the explosiveness factor, with guitarists Josh Withensaw and Jimmie Deeghan riffing harder than ever, drummer Dennis Wilson pounding harder than ever, and lead singer David Strauchman abandoning the sensitive, sentimental character listeners heard on Shh… and Picture Perfect in favor of a more bitter, more ruthless version of himself. In this new incarnation of the band, the title Bad Habits appears to be much more ruthless. Where the band’s previous album titles gave connotations of youthful optimism, the title of this latest release implies something much more serious, and that is exactly what listeners receive from the first drum hits of “Tie Me Down.”
Indeed, “Tie Me Down” sets the tone for the rest of the album. Instrumentally, the band sounds much as they ever have. While the guitars are a little more distorted and the production on the drums much more prominent, the handclaps and catchy chorus are indicators of a band still tied to their pop-rock roots. However, gone are the days when Strauchman cheerfully sings about “waking up to AM radio,” instead asking a female character to “tie me down and fuck me up tonight/hurt me good before you say goodbye.” The lyrics are darker, significantly angrier, and yet all the more refreshing. Yet, if “Tie Me Down” is a single breath of fresh air, second track “Whatever Happened To You” is, in terms of a terrible metaphor, an entire atmosphere. The song’s aggressive opening is surpassed only by Strauchman’s emotional voice as he reaches a near-scream. Indeed, this is likely the heaviest the band has gotten since their pre-Fearless days, and it is simply wonderful. This new version of Strauchman is much more believable than the Disney-style character who permeated the two previous releases. Song after song, the band’s vocal onslaught continues, delivering moments that recall AFI more than they recall ATL even as the band continues to show dramatic technical growth. Wilson’s drumming anchors the fantastically bitter “Fall Apart;” Withensaw’s guitar skills are most evident on the southern rock-esque “No One But You.”
Yet, for all of this album’s bitterness, there is a heart in many songs that Every Avenue listener’s have never before seen. It could be the juxtaposition from the song’s heavier tracks, or the level of maturity on the record that makes each emotion seem more profound, but Every Avenue also provides some of the year’s most heartfelt tracks even as they bring the anger back into pop-punk. “There Tonight,” the sole heartfelt track in the album’s first half, could easily help Every Avenue join the likes of The Fray and The Script on Top 40; Strauchman’s heartwrenching lyrics (“I used to say that I would never go back, I swear, now I’ll never get the chance”) paired with the band’s improved performance on every level helps serve up one of the best songs of the band’s career. In fact, this is the only glimmer of true heartbreak on the album until “Only Place I Call Home” and “Someday, Somehow” usher in the album’s second half, which proceeds to add little bit more heart into an album that was previously defined by a largely cold, bitter persona. “I Can’t Not Love You,” a piano ballad which finds Strauchman putting his heart on a thin line made up of keys and viola strings is a beautiful, heart-tugging piece that would, in many ways, be a more appropriate ending to the album than actual closer “Watch The World.” Marred by sluggish verses and merely above average chorus, it is unfortunate that “Watch The World” is the album’s final track; however, it is to the band’s merit that the remainder of the album is on such a solid foundation that one mediocre song does not impact the album’s impressions as a whole.
Bad Habits is a picture of a band on the brink of maturity. Raw emotion is evident on much of the album’s material, and it is clear that the group is no longer afraid to embrace the darker sides of human personality. A perfect fit for fans of both the band and truly emotional art, Bad Habits is a fitting title for an album that explores the good, the bad, and the ugly, and it is sure to be the foundation as Every Avenue’s already burgeoning career takes off like it never has before.
2. Whatever Happened To You
3. There Tonight
4. Fall Apart
5. No One But You
6. Only Place I Call Home
7. Someday, Somehow
8. Hit Me Where It Hurts The Most
9. I Can't Not Love You
10. Watch The World
In a recent interview, mid-western pop rockers Every Avenue were asked a question that would normally be difficult to answer: “How would you describe your sound?” For vocalist Dave Strauchman the answer was simple: “We sound like Every Avenue.” His response could not be more true. Every Avenue blends a style that is innovative and reminiscent of a time in rock and roll when the name of the game was simply to have fun. ... read more