Before Everything & After

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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus

Mike Herrera, Yuri Ruley, and Tom Wisniewski have been rocking the kids for Ten Years and Running, as their 2002 retrospective proudly puts it. While their third outing for A&M mostly traces the peaks and valleys of a bipolar relationship, tracks like "Play It Loud" and "Kings of Hollywood" assert the band's van-touring pride and dedication to "left coast punk rawk" [sic]. Reaching out to freshly minted suburbanite punk Benji Madden for guest vocals only solidifies the band's status as ten-and-five men. But Before Everything & After isn't the clutch home run it could have been. Instead of leading by example, the veteran trio has embraced the big-budget punk-pop treatment that regularly tweaks albums by junior leaguers like A New Found Glory or Madden's own Good Charlotte. Mixing from the ubiquitous Lord-Alge brothers squeegees clean each cut, plugging power chords into punchy drum fills, processing vocals to within an inch of their humanity, and putting pop accessibility way before any punk revivalist relevancy. You might recognize "Well Adjusted" from its role in a popular Pepsi commercial; in any case, its vintage Green Day crunch is powerful, yet utterly typical. The song's carefully cleansed grit will light up the LEDs on your car stereo, but if you can tell it apart from its brethren, you win a Hercules wristband. Following standard operating procedure, Before Everything's handful of rock anthems is accompanied by a sagging midsection of pop-punk power ballads. Cloying synths, treated piano, surging string sections, and robot vocal processing all busy up "Don't Walk Away" and "Quit Your Life," where Herrera's emotional perspective on a bicoastal romance amounts to ordering in Chinese food. Who started this epidemic of Hot Topic hair gel balladry? It deadens any energy given off by the album's rocking moments (here, the otherwise awesome "More Everything" withers next to the cello and violin of its crying cousin). Power ballads have no place in punk , old or new, left coast or right. Sure, they're a great way to meet girls. Just ask Bon Jovi or Mötley Crüe, who were lighting lighters and banging heads when the Warped Tour Generation was still just a one-night stand. But the hair bands polished their metal machines with pop, and the glimmer didn't last. Punk-pop veterans like MxPx should have learned this lesson long ago. Instead, Before Everything & After is a radio-friendly flameout that's sound-alike safe for a quick and easy sell.

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