Blue October

Approaching Normal

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Despite its title, Approaching Normal is Blue October's most bizarre release to date, a collection of post-grunge missteps and ill-advised detours into genres far beyond the band's grasp. Frontman Justin Furstenfeld jumps overboard during the bulk of these tracks, from the snarling melodrama of "Weight of the World" (where he sounds like Adam Pascal, the hyperbolic rocker from Broadway's Rent) to the odd, Smash Mouth-styled bounce of "Jump Rope." He has an unchecked affinity for theatricality, for the sort of first-pumping grandeur that very few bands can execute well, and his angsty self-loathing -- which, following the platinum success of the band's previous album, seems a bit forced -- turns up some priceless nuggets of post-grunge poetry. "I gained 40 pounds because of you!" Furstenfeld howls during "Say It," before announcing his intention to "cover you in ants, bees, and honey, then take your picture for the cover of our album" during the follow-up tune. He even adopts a British accent for "Kangaroo Cry," which is hands down the silliest song title of 2009. Ironically, Furstenfeld's vocal resemblance to Jack Black is more apparent on these tracks than ever before, and Approaching Normal would be more palatable if it were executed with the same tongue-in-cheek outlandishness as Tenacious D. Blue October remain totally unaware of their own absurdity, however, which makes Approaching Normal the sort of cringe-worthy drama fest that inspires a ton of laughs but few repeated listens.

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