Emery try their best to fall just outside the vast domain that is "emo," but for all their efforts, the shimmering guitars, melodic verses, and at times larger-than-life choruses make their attempts fail. "So Cold I Could See My Breath" is a good example as lead singer Toby Morell and company offer up a beefy chorus with great harmonies before ebbing back to the softer portion of their soft-hard framework. There is a portion where the delayed harmonies are comparable to the Futureheads, yet it's only temporary. A bit of angst never hurts, even if it's placed in such a well-worn arrangement. "Playing with Fire" fares better as guitarist Matt Carter complements the retro-meets-new wave keyboard work of Josh Head. The hook also works in the chorus as Morelle wails away on each word while the pop smarts in the vein of XTC make for an interesting dichotomy on the metal-tinged "Returning the Smile You Have Had from the Start." By far, though, the selling point has to be the finely tuned and lean-sounding "Studying Politics," which discovers its groove and rides the hell out of it, creating one of their strongest numbers thus far despite the brief but spacy, cheesy coda. The winding, swaying, and oddly titled "Listening to Freddie Mercury" has nothing much to do with the late Queen singer; instead the track creates a quasi-anthem far too fragmented to be taken seriously. One sleeper pick might be "Miss Behavin'," which has a high-octane punk meets sweeping, majestic pop feel to it thanks to Carter and drummer Dave Powell. Emery sound like a group repeating itself on "The Terrible Secret," a radio-friendly, uptempo ditty. The album concludes with the one-two combo of "In a Lose, Lose Situation" and "In a Win, Win Situation," the latter being a lengthy, maudlin sort of track that Emery drag out too often.
AllMusic Review by Jason MacNeil