Hoobastank: Every Man for Himself

It seems that until Hoobastank finally give in to their hidden adult-contemporary desires, they will be destined to languish in a morass of unoriginality.


Every Man for Himself

Label: Island
US Release Date: 2006-05-16
UK Release Date: 2006-05-08

Sure, you come to a Hoobastank record with certain expectations -- when you've got a band that's a mockup of another band that itself dove straight into the valleys of serious suck in the later, commercially viable portion of its career (that latter band being Incubus), it's easy to expect just about anything from such an imitation to sink to depths nigh-unimaginable. And you know, for a while there, I thought Hoobastank was going to prove my cynical expectations completely right.

I mean, the album starts with a track called "The Rules", which consists mostly of a drill sergeant barking orders at the unsuspecting listener. Oh, good, the drill sergeant thing hasn't been done to death. If that weren't painful enough, Mr. Drill Sergeant actually continues his free will-flogging rants into the second track, "Born to Lead", which is one of those authority-challenging anthems that modern rock radio just loves. "Challenge authority, kids! Challenge authority, and leave your twelve bucks in the basket out front! Be yourself, just like everyone else who buys our album!" It's unfortunate that such heavy-handed pseudo-self-help tripe has to weigh down what's actually a musically decent song, complete with those dance-beat drums that the Franz made fashionable again and lots of half-stepping in the guitar parts, adding a vaguely unsettling Middle Eastern subtext to the obvious militarism. Unfortunately, such subtleties are lost in the heavy-handedness of Douglas Robb's lyrics, and we are left with a basic approximation of generic aggression.

This type of misplaced aggression shows up intermittently throughout the rest of the album as well -- Robb's lyrical work hits a new all-time low on the cringeworthy sex jam "Inside of You" ("It seems so obvious, / There's somethin' up with us, / I swear I feel it from across the room"). Again, there's a dance beat, and horns, to emphasize the fact that Hoobastank are trying their best at conveying aural porn, which is both funny and sad. "Without a Fight" is more "RISE UP AND FIGHT AGAINST . . . UH, SOMETHING" music, and "Look Where We Are" tries to add a country stomp to little effect.

The aggression is tempered, however, by a lighter touch that most bands of this ilk find awkward, but which Hoobastank finds incredibly comfortable. Robb himself has a sublimely beautiful falsetto tone, and he can croon with the best rock vocalists of this decade. Seriously, this guy's got a Disney movie theme song in him before his career is over. Until then, we get things like "Moving Forward", which starts off with a Queen-inspired stab at self-harmonization and finishes like a Diorama-era Silverchair tune, complete with big gratuitous "Na na na" vocals. Mind you, this is not a bad thing. "Moving Forward" is perhaps the most mature song Hoobastank has written to date, both musically and lyrically, as it's another self-help jam, but it's uplifting and enriching rather than overtly confrontational and aggressive. In fact, much of the album is like this, as songs like "The First of Me" and synth-laden Lennon-aping first single "If I Were You" preach the virtues of individuality and appreciation for the good in your life, respectively. The testosterone is toned down, and as a result, the message actually becomes believable.

It is in this spirit that the title of the album shows itself to be perfectly, yet tragically appropriate. Every Man for Himself is a statement of belief in oneself, rather than a simple "cool-sounding" title, though its use of the word "Man" does betray the fact that Hoobastank are, quite obviously, not making this album for the girls. These may be sensitive guys, but modern radio rock 'n' roll remains, largely, a boys' club.

So sure, Every Man for Himself managed to surprise me a bit, and break out of some of the traps of its genre. Unfortunately, it still falls into too many of those traps to be acknowledged as a truly wonderful album. It'll work pretty damn well in the car at 60mph, but that's about it. Even so, I do like the direction in which Hoobastank seems to be headed, as their more mature songwriting approach is quite obviously battling their long-standing tendency toward stupid rock songs. What I hope is that one day, Every Man for Himself will be seen as the transitional album, the one that marked the band's transition from poor imitation to solid artists. If only I were more optimistic that such a transformation could actually happen.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.