Blood in the Water

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Colorado's Animo credit a D.I.Y. philosophy for inspiring both their pop-punk sound and a defining anecdote from the start of their career, which saw them driving all the way to New Mexico to stalk the founders of the Vans Warped Tour and finagling a slot in its notoriously bulging lineup, in exchange for unpaid road crew work. Of course, if they actually believe that this curious "transaction" was conclusive proof of their abundant musical talent, rather than a blatant case of modern-day indentured servitude, we've got a bridge to sell them. But, all joking aside, it does speak volumes about both the simplicity and naïveté intrinsic to their spirited but utterly predictable pop-punk sound. Already exposed at length on their tepidly received debut, One Hope One Mind, the previous year, this sound is reprised in no less formulaic fashion on their 2008 sophomore album, Blood in the Water. Here, indistinctive cuts like "The Addiction" and "Last Letter Home" pilfer all of the familiar sugar-coated building blocks that put hitmakers blink-182 and Sum 41 into proverbial gingerbread mansions, but in Animo's hands manage to erect, at best, a few pillow fortresses in their parents' finished basements. Further to that point: on the mildly interesting "Left Out (Between the Sheets)," singer Schuyler Akele seems to be miming ineffectively along to Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, which only puts an even brighter spotlight on Animo's limp-wristed execution -- making this the sort of stuff that may sound "punk" to 12-year-olds, but will propel true punk rock lifers into the streets with torches. The fact is, poppy punk rock can of course succeed, so long as the hooks, choruses, and melodies are beyond irresistible. And even though Animo aren't complete failures in that regard, they're nowhere near to matching what their heroes have accomplished based on the evidence contained on Blood in the Water.

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