Mest attempt to shake their image up on their fourth album, Photographs -- or at least that's what the gothic painting of a pretty girl and a skull suggests, as do song titles like "Kiss Me, Kill Me," "Cursed," and, best of all, "As His Black Heart Dies (My Mistake)," which certainly sounds very scary. True enough, there is some evidence of emotional bloodletting, fashionable neo-goth, and new new wave scattered across Photographs, from Tony Lovato's angst-ridden lyrics to echoing guitars and washes of keyboards. But this is all window-dressing, since underneath that tortured gloss, this is still the same lightweight punk-pop that the group has been peddling since its 2000 debut. There are a couple of different sounds, including a power ballad in the guise of "This Time," yet instead of adding depth to the band's music, this stretching tends to neuter whatever power the group had and the crystal-clear, dirt-free production makes the band sound nearly as thin and pedestrian as Lovato's nice-punk-next-door voice. After all, this is a guy who writes a batch of predictably angry, alienated songs, then thanks his mom and dad "for everything, especially with all the help I need trying to be an adult out on my own...this s***'s hard" -- not exactly a watershed moment for punk rock. But that's the problem with Mest in a nutshell -- the quartet might be sincerely trying to sort things out, but their music is so bland, formulaic, and fizzy that it undercuts whatever emotions they have, and it's not hooky enough to be either memorable or a guilty pleasure. That's the essence of the band, and it doesn't change, no matter if they're doing ska-punk or goth-punk.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Track Listing - Disc 1