Catalyst doesn't quite graduate New Found Glory from the punk-pop rungs. From its main aesthetic thrust to the pristine mixing and production, this is a slick and durable Drive-Thru missive, micro-tweaked for maximum Warped Tour ROI. Still, the guys in NFG have been at this a while, so a little exploration is not only understandable, it's expected. To that end, Catalyst's East Coast hardcore kickoff is welcome. Even if it's more of a genre exercise than an actual song, "Intro" illustrates the band's desire to grow within its influences, as do cuts like "All Downhill from Here," which suggests the literate tack of the Alkaline Trio, or "Truth of My Youth" and "Failure's Not Flattering," where the rousing melodic jaunt of the Get Up Kids seems to be the model. (That group's James Dewees even contributes some fizzy synthesizer to "Flattering.") As studio budgets grow, so does the scope of an album's requisite power ballad, and Catalyst is no different. Violins and violas chirp urgently in the background of "I Don't Wanna Know," and late-'90s Lillith Fair hopeful Kendall Payne resurfaces with a gorgeous supporting vocal turn behind NFG frogman Jordan Pundik. It's a great track, despite limiting lyrics ("I never cared how I dressed before/But I cared that night") of the sort that plague Catalyst's entirety. Elsewhere, beyond the occasional flirtation with drum programming, more piano, and the irresistible new wave influence in late-album standout "No News Is Good News," New Found Glory stay with their old standby blend of catchy punk-pop inflected with chunkhead metal. Highlights include "This Disaster" and "Doubt Full"; best is the absolutely unstoppable revivalist romp "Your Biggest Mistake," which should rule the half-pipe hi-fi until Hurley's fall line comes out.
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus