Before you read any further, I’d like all readers to acknowledge that I do not blame The All American Rejects for this debacle of an album. The blame for their incredibly awful attempt at writing a soundtrack for a John Hughes film, resides solely in one James Dewees. Prior to 1999, James was the drummer for Coalesce, happily pounding away at the skins for one of hardcore’s more innovative bands. Then James decided to start messing around with a Casio keyboard writing goofy pop songs inspired by both the Rentals and Weezer. Working under the alias Reggie and The Full Effect, James grabbed some of the members of the Get Up Kids and released Greatest Hits 1984-1987 on Second Nature Records. Despite the projects’ silliness it turned out that James had a knack for writing catchy pop ditties. The success of Reggie turned James into a full-fledged member of the Get Up Kids so that he could update their sound, with his. Thing is, Reggie was always a joke and to make sure everyone understood that James released Promotional Copy in 2000. That album, complete with Swedish death metal tracks and songs about a dwarf take over, proved to the world that Reggie was indeed a joke, albeit a very good one.
Promotional Copy must not have reached Stillwater, Oklahoma, as that can be the only explanation for The All American Rejects. The duo, Nick Wheeler and Tyson Ritter, 20 and 18 years old, clearly did not get that Reggie was a joke. Instead, like teenagers are prone to do, they idolized Reggie. For all I know there could be Reggie pin ups adorning their bedrooms right now. Like their idol, The Rejects play keyboard driven pop songs about getting left behind by girls, not getting girls, and a host of other issues dealt with in the movie Pretty in Pink. To understand how truly awful this album is check out the lyrics from “Swing, Swing”: “I’m dreaming of her / She’s seeing other guys / Eemotions are stirred / The sun is gone the nights are long / And I am left while the tears fall / Did you think that I would cry on the phone / Did you know what it feels like being alone / I’ll find someone new / Swing, swing from the.” Better insights have been printed on backs of milk cartons.
It’s not all Reggie idolatry on the Rejects debut LP. For one, pictures of them on the CD insert clearly show a Strokes infatuation. There’s also the fourth track “Time Stands Stills”, which incorporates the “whoa-whoa” harmonizing that Jimmy Eat World patented. Then there’s “Why Worry”, which sounds like Saves the Day crossed with Dashboard Confessional. Oh, and “Don’t Leave Me” might as well be a New Found Glory cover. Clearly these boys have got their eyes open to what the kids today are listening to, as this album mostly sounds like what they’d play at ‘emo karaoke’ night. And while they can churn out a decent melody, all the songs are at least catchy, they’re as deep as a New York City puddle.
There is an outside chance that The All American Rejects are actually brilliant satirists, the Monty Python of the emo scene if you will. In which case, they do understand that Reggie and The Full Effect was a joke, and inspired by it, they’ve set out to top it. More likely this is just another sad case of kids being influenced by all the wrong sources. If there’s any advice I could give to these young lads it would be to invest in some Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen or Smiths records to get a sense of real songs of love lost. While they’re at it, they should also buy some Cure or even Depeche Mode for a clue as to how to tastefully incorporate keyboards. Then, maybe, they’ll have a chance at decency.