Tokio Hotel

Humanoid

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Three albums deep into their career now, Tokio Hotel manage to steer clear of a songwriting slump, but just barely, with the quality of tunes audibly dropping toward the end of the record, spreading fear that Europe's emo mall darlings may not be able to keep their teenage fans' attention the next time around. Not that it would be surprising, as the band's shtick was always kind of thin; in fact, it was, and still is on Humanoid, built on intentional simplicity. The guitars churn out gloomy rehashes of U2 and blink-182 riffs, streamlining them as much as possible while adding synths or even pianos in the background to make them even more sentimental, and the whole thing rumbles along at midtempo rhythms with Bill Kaulitz's wailing teen voice. Still, it produces an anthemic and dramatic effect that's as accessible as any good old punk-pop record, but it's much more brooding. Melodies and imagery are so clich├ęd they're almost archetypal, but Tokio Hotel did not become European superstars for nothing; their music is simple even compared to American emo pop, but in a good way. Like bigger brothers Rammstein, they offer nothing but bare essentials, but it works as long as the essentials are worth it. This is to say, it all depends on the hooks, and in their best moments -- both on Humanoid and its predecessors -- Tokio Hotel crank out earworms as irresistible as anything Britney or any dance-pop one-hit-wonders have produced, albeit significantly more introverted. But quality pop is a complicated affair, and somewhere along the line, they simply run out of good stuff. By the eighth track, the band stoops low enough to rip off the synth pop of Alphaville, though even this does not help. Once the magic is gone, instead of romantic sufferers, you're left with a bunch of kids in eyeliner going through the motions to emulate an earlier, more inspired version of themselves.

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