The Philly-based indie pop duo makes a bid for commercial glory on its fourth studio long-player, the airtight, hook-filled, and heartfelt Broken into Better Shape. Good Old War have always been a radio-driven band, seamlessly blending roots rock, power pop, and indie folk into taut, perfectly sweetened retro-pop confections, but rarely have they sounded so strident in their wooing of the mainstream. Opener "Tell Me What You Want from Me," with its relatable down-but-not-out lyrics, easy alt-pop gallop, and Lumineers-inspired group vocals, sets the stage for a smartly paced ten-track set that feels tailor-made to accompany dramedy movie trailers, automobile and insurance commercials, and slow-mo reality show montages. As has been the case on the group's prior outings, Keith Goodwin and Daniel Schwartz's effortless harmonies and practiced pop instincts serve as the glue that keeps everything from going into diabetic shock, and standout cuts like the electro-tinged "Never Gonna See Me Cry," the Vampire Weekend-meets-They Might Be Giants road trip rocker "Broken Record," and the aforementioned "Tell Me What You Want from Me," deliver hook after hook with pure glee. That lack of pretension is ultimately what saves the LP from some of its more saccharine moments, like the jam band funk clunker "I'm the One," the cliché-ridden "Fly Away," and the equally rote, big-moment title track, the latter two of which would have benefited from American Idol not having been canceled. With Broken into Better Shape, Good Old War have proven that they have the industry-savvy chops to secure some of the same chart space as contemporaries like Fun., Walk the Moon, and Mumford & Sons, but in their quest for a seat at the table, they may have lost a little of the spice that made them so appealing in the first place.
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger