After weeks and weeks of hearing the endlessly catchy and seemingly omnipresent "Swing, Swing," the debut self-titled album from The All-American Rejects is in stores. I'm pretty sure that Stillwater, OK, sucks pretty hard, but since these kids managed to escape the redneck undertow, I have to give them their due. Their debut album is hook-laden punk/pop extravaganza, incorporating bonus instrumentation in the form of piano, synths, strings and drum loops in a manner that sets them apart from their contemporaries. Guitars still chug with the best of them, but between their interesting arrangements, Tyson Ritter's actual ability to sing and strong songwriting skills, this crew has the type of songs that are always in vogue, regardless of the music scene du jour. From the '80s-tinged rocker "One More Sad Song" to the synthetic drum-accompanied "Don't Leave Me" to album opener "My Paper Heart," the songs are poppy as hell and begging for soundtrack placement. Where's John Waters' 21st century equivalent when you need him?
JEREMY P. GOLDSTEIN