L.A.O.

The Honesty of It All

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L.A.-based emo kids L.A.O. (it stands for Life's All Over, apparently in the sense of "all around us," not "finished") debut with The Honesty of It All, an album that's riddled with that particularly awkward combination of unabashed earnestness and irritating preciousness that's the hallmark of the average high school drama club member. First rule of writing good rock lyrics: you can't start a song with a line like "My love is like a pomegranate" and not go on to explain what on earth you mean by that! That song, "The Empathy Is in the Agony," isn't even the most cringe-inducing on the album; that would be the opening "Nine Months of Distance an Odometer Can't Count," which ends with lead singer Blake Kasemeier repeatedly delivering a lyric about the special magic of holding a newborn infant in a pained shriek that sounds so thoroughly disturbed that any parent of a new baby who would let this guy within 500 feet of their kid is in danger of a visit from Child Protective Services. Remove the sometimes embarrassing, occasionally irritating Kasemeier from the mix, and L.A.O. are blandly competent emo rockers playing nothing anyone hasn't heard a hundred times before. No, it's the freaky majesty of the lyrics that provides the closest thing to entertainment on this otherwise uninspired album.

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