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On Linear, Straightener manage to do what their longtime festival buddies from Asian Kung-Fu Generation still didn't dare at this point: break out of their pop-punk/emo rock paradigm, or at least alter it significantly. They didn't really reinvent themselves -- the music is still fast and melodic, with obvious nods to Jimmy Eat World and blink-182 -- but they did put enough work into the mix to make it sound different from their established style. For instance, in spite of all the blazing guitars, the leading instrument is actually bass, which recalls Primus and even Korn -- that's an unusual approach for punk-based music, but it works all the better for it. What's more important, the songs are quite diverse, ranging from the album opener that begins as a semi-ballad and slowly builds up layer upon layer of sound, to the strings of "Lives" and the all-out assault of "Birthday." "Ghost of Christmas Past" is actually a ditty fit for pop charts, coming as a strategically placed breather between the midtempo, moody tracks that dominate Linear, although the record never falls into bad emo show-off or teenage whining. To round things up, the boys know that less is more and keep the record brief and filler-free. Perhaps the only quibble worth mentioning is that the English singing is done with a pretty thick accent, although since most of the lyrics are sung in Japanese, that doesn't really lessen the impact of this short and effective slab of rock music.

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