Kip Moore scored three big bro country hits in the two years surrounding 2012 –- "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" was the 2011 breakthrough, followed by "Beer Money" in 2012 and "Hey Pretty Girl" in 2013 -- but he struggled on the journey to his second album, delivering two singles that, in his words, "stiffed," leading him to scrap an entire LP and write a new record, presumably one that's more commercial. Wild Ones, delivered three years after Up All Night, is that official second record and, as the neon-speckled album cover indicates, it's an album indebted to the '80s and not the hybrid of Hall & Oates and Paul Young suggested by the art, either. Moore plays up his middle-America bona fides, eager to conjure some of the spirit of fellow Springsteen fan Eric Church, but where Church prefers beefy guitars, Moore favors open-road anthems, songs that feel masculine but retain a vulnerable core. Such an emphasis on ballads and deliberate midtempo rockers gives Wild Ones a soft, even hazy touch when compared to the glossy snap of Up All Night, a shift that neatly punctures whatever lingering bro country affections remain in Moore's music. Instead of living for tomorrow's parties, he's rhapsodizing about good times once had in a style that funnels prime Bon Jovi through John Mellencamp. If Kip's songs aren't as hook-heavy or as sticky as his idols, it is nevertheless admirable that he's completely revamped his sound so he doesn't feel like anybody else in contemporary country -- not his bro country peers, not Church, not a red dirt refugee or macho rocker. He's effectively evoked the feel and aesthetic of mid-'80s heartland rock, and if that doesn't necessarily make him a wild one, it does make him a rebel of sorts.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine