|In Defense of the Genre
Emo bands are supposed to over-emote, right? Yes, but there are limits, and this 27-track double CD jumps over them. This is less a collection of songs than a continuous monologue by mainman Max Bemis. Even with a dozen-odd high-profile guests, he's so incessant and close-miked that the shifting musical setting (pop-punk goes grandiose, with more Queen quotation than necessary) becomes a mere backdrop. Against all odds, there's a good single CD's worth of moments when Bemis's confessional intensity and musical hyperactivity add up to something compelling: He can swing a good melody when he settles down, and the band can rock with imagination when he lets it. But you have to wade through songs that are either frustratingly abstract or numbingly literal, as Bemis details a romantic breakup, a spell of sleeping around, and (perhaps explaining the album's sprawl) his treatment for bipolar disorder. No disrespect, but: Call us back when the drugs start working.
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