It's difficult to find new things to say about bands like New Found Glory. Blink 182, Sum 41, Bowling for Soup, and other purveyors of punk-lite occupy the same musical territory and just one quick listen to Sticks and Stones reveals that it's all been done, and heard, before.
Yet complaining that this Florida quartet is one-dimensional is like whining about a soap opera or a Hollywood blockbuster not being realistic. The fact is, bands like New Found Glory serve a purpose to an audience of shopping mall teens who wish to appear anarchic by trading in the Backstreet Boys and Britney for guitar bands playing melodic, chugging riff-rock that weighs in on such meaty subjects as school, relationship angst, and summertime. Expecting bands like New Found Glory to come up with anything different is akin to going into Burger King and expecting to be served haute cuisine after ordering a Whopper.
Yes, it's not exactly innovative, new or exciting but even the most stony-faced music critic with the hardest of hearts would have to admit there's a certain charm about Sticks and Stones. Listen to it aware of its parameters, and a dozen songs filled with more hooks than a coat rack are just waiting to be discovered.
The tried and trusted combination of zippy verses and choruses, thick chainsaw guitars that remain the right side of radio-friendly, and a vocalist who perfectly captures the rebel persona is revealed within seconds of the opening "Understatement". It's frenetic and formulaic, melodic and moronic, yet difficult to dismiss outright. The first single, "My Friends Over You", plays on the dumb pun that the narrator would choose his friends over his girlfriend, yet the relentless melody that drives the song is as big an anthem as you'll hear this year.
More adult themes are apparently explored in "Sonny", which mulls over the death of singer Jordan Pundik's grandfather. The lyrics may appear to be the musings of a particularly uninspired high-school student, but then again, that's probably the idea. "Head on Collision" and "It's Been a Summer" continue to combine sticky sweet melodies with chunky guitars, while "Forget My Name", surprisingly enough, does exactly the same thing.
A few more soundalike tracks merge into one, and the whole album whizzes past faster than those formative years you probably spent listening to the kind of throwaway music you can't remember now. Despite the non-stop melodies (or maybe because of them), the overall effect is one of overkill -- kind of like gorging on fast food and realizing after a while that it really doesn't taste of anything. There's no variation, no diversity and no surprises. But then again, I knew that would be the case before I even heard it, so I'm not supposed to say that.
So there you have it. If you're still reading this review, then you'll undoubtedly like New Found Glory, and Sticks and Stones will surely be the natural successor to Blink 182's Enema of the State in your CD collection. And if you do fit that profile, you'll be glad to know that another band sounding exactly the same, comprised of a similarly attired crew of punk-pop renegades will be launched within no time at all to take New Found Glory's place.