The Click Five

Modern Minds and Pastimes

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The Click Five seems like such a great idea for a pop band that it's hard not to be disappointed that they're not quite as much fun as they promise. They're an unabashedly commercial boy band that can play but are nevertheless guided by manager Wayne Sharp who helped fill out the initial lineup of guitarist Joe Guese, bassist Ethan Mentzer and keyboardist Ben Romans, adding drummer Joey Zehr and singer Eric Dill to the mix, then packaging the group as band designed to translate current rock trends to kids that not only don't care about being hip, they're not even aware of what hip is. On their 2005 debut Greetings from Imrie House, they looked like a clean, commercial, unthreatening Hives on the cover and had strong Strokes streak running beneath a sound that was designed for kids who were beginning to outgrow Radio Disney. It was designed to be fun and it often was, although it didn't quite stick in the brain, nor did it have an impact on the charts despite tours with Ashlee Simpson and the Backstreet Boys. Such lack of commercial success offered the band an opportunity for reboot, which they seized, kicking out Dill and replacing him with Kyle Patrick and with a new singer came a new style, as the Click Five replaced their retro-rock leanings with retro-new wave flair -- a shameless attempt to follow fashion, but one that should be expected, even embraced, by a band that has nothing more than dreams of big hits in mind. If only the music on this second album, Modern Minds and Pastimes, were as big, tasteless and gaudy as the Click Five's career machinations! Part of the problem is that substituting the Killers for the Strokes means that the band relies too much on pumping wannabe anthems and layers of tongue-in-cheek retro-synths, which give the album a bit of a chilly distanced feel at odds with music designed to be teen trash, but also to be the group's strengths. The Click Five are at their best when they're at their silliest or at their most melodic, as on the over-stuffed yet sleek "Happy Birthday" giving way to the glorious, ridiculous "Headlight Disco" (its title gives away exactly what kind of retro-pastiche this is), running through the surging "I'm Getting Over You" (the best anthem they have here, because the chorus glides by on a big hook) and ending with "Jenny," a fantastic neo-Weezer pop tune. This is genuinely fun pop, a ray of sunshine compared to the stylized murk that comprises the rest of the album as the Click Five work an '80s revivalism that's big on texture but not hooks. And while pop music is always about image, it also needs tunes to carry that image and the Click Five has a hard time getting enough of those tunes to make for a consistently entertaining album. It was a problem they had on Greetings, it's a problem they have here on Modern Minds -- they have a couple good songs on each, which is usually enough for any singles-oriented big pop album, but the key to those records is that those singles have to be big hits in order for the not-bad, not-good filler to be overlooked. Without those big hits, the Click Five's albums seem to blend together and fade, becoming more memorable for what they're trying to be instead of what they've achieved.

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