For their fourth album, the Strumbellas headed to the studio with co-producer/engineer Brian Phillips and main producer Tim Pagnotta, whose résumé includes such spirited acts as Walk the Moon and Neon Trees. While the Strumbellas' previous album, Hope, sometimes contrasted their typically effervescent fare with more wistful moments and self-doubting lyrics, Rattlesnake commits to a uniformly uplifting sound and message for nearly the duration. Their prior albums' folkier elements have been somewhat streamlined here, too, so when lead singer Simon Ward sings "I like to shout from the rooftops and surf on top of the crowd" on opening track "Salvation," he's accompanied by sleek, rhythmic electric guitar and airy keyboards in addition to a chorus of chanted backing vocals and implied stomping feet. Additional lyrics like "Even when the sun goes down/I'll be there to hold and love you" aren't solely the product of an enthusiastic opener, rather they're part of a steady stream of starry-eyed anthems that promise to love, cherish, and "be the change that we want to see." If there's an exception to the positivity, it's later track "The Party," whose teen rom-com version of romantic melancholia needs the support of his partner more than ever before. That song is part of a Side Two consisting of (relatively) more low-key songs, which veer into ballad territory as the album progresses without sacrificing exhilarating -- and, eventually, lighter-waving -- stadium anthems, even for a single track. Crossing the line into cloying before it even reaches that point but loaded with songs that should do well on the festival circuit, Rattlesnake isn't bad, it's just too much.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson