[16 March 2008]
At first glance the eloquent name in itself is something to be remembered. Right up there with my personal favorite: Goddamn Electric Bill. Great band names aside, In With continues to fulfill the first impression quite nicely. The album is loud, scorned, and aside from the bitter lyrics of crap relationships, you can’t help but want to wrap them up in a big bear hug. These three men have been hurt and they aren’t going take it sitting down quietly. The tone is optimistic and Ex-Boyfriends have created refreshingly potent pop music. Best of all, the exes tell a story without wallowing in a self-indulgent pity party. I guess there really is a first time for everything.
Forming in San Francisco and signing with Absolutely Kosher in 2003, the trio put out their first album, Dear John, in 2006. Now launching their second, the group maintains the same themes and sounds, yet continues to succeed in discovering ways to make tracks different and interesting. In a San Francisco Bay Guardian interview, the band touches on pop music and what type of reputation being a “pop” band has received in music recently: “Those songs aren’t hard to write, but it is hard to write them over and over and not seem repetitive and to find something new in each song…we like that challenge.” Each tune chimes sunny dispositions, even among aching lyrics such as “It’s my only desire just to breathe without breaking constantly”. Ex-Boyfriends stay true to their word and produce music that is layered, catchy, and more addictive with each listen.
The leader of this pack, Colin Daly, has a voice comparable to the Cure’s Robert Smith, which adds a certain shaky, yet determined quality. It literally sounds like he just got out of a relationship; fragile, with emotions brimming. Full of heart and vulnerability, he especially bares it all in the upper register, where it sounds as if he’s finally unleashing to his own ex-boyfriend, however far away he may be, and demanding full attention. There is nothing mournful about their pain, and instead they go against the cliché and pair bitterness with aggressive tempo’s upbeat charm.
The opening track “Pick-Up Line” is a prefect example: it’s confident, charged, and comments on the butterflies surrounding a crush, or the overwhelming excitement at the beginning of a relationship. “And when you stand so close I swear I might explode” is simplistic and romantic. It expresses that all too familiar nervous energy around a crush and the feeling of falling. But the success of this track goes well beyond text and is overall an excellent start to the collection. Persistent drums, crisp guitars, and echoing voices foreshadow a carefree and energized take on the ups and downs of the dating world. Several other tracks engage hang claps and “oohs” and “aahs”, and the few ballads they do tackle never drag, blending well with the album’s endearing appeal.
Lyrically, this album goes through the gamut of a relationship’s trials and tribulations. Yet due to the musical composition, the overall affect is pulsating and tireless. From crushes to post-break-up “I hate love” feelings, In With avoids the one-dimensional definition of ex-boyfriends. This marks a defining moment: It is the one and only time I will recommend befriending an ex.