On Wax: Move Along

There are albums that have success in their time, but are too often forgotten. For those of us who came of age as emo and pop-punk ruled the airwaves, the All American Rejects second album, Move Along fits that description perfectly. It’s undoubtedly an album that meant a lot to me and a lot of others at the time, but you won’t find Move Along on any “best of” lists. In fact, its awfully difficult to find anything of note about this album other than the fact that, yes, it was in fact a popular album in the years of 2005 to 2006. It didn’t represent any sort of radical stylistic change for the band, nor did it influence any future mainstream trends or other popular artists, but its impact on the mainstream at the time of its release was large. Three top 15 hits in a calendar year, and a top 10 record that stayed in the Billboard Hot 200 for 84 weeks are both impressive achievements. But fifteen years later, the album and the band itself are nothing but a footnote of the moment where pop-punk and emo fully took over the mainstream, simple fodder for nostalgia addicts and enthusiasts of the genre.

The main reason why Move Along has been all but left behind while other bands and albums from that same time period and genre still get talked about: objectively, this is not a “good” album. It was made for consumption by the masses at its time, filled to the brim with layers of electric guitars, earworm hooks, propulsive drums, and simple, angsty lyrics. If we look past its obvious surface level appeal, Move Along’s clean production borders on obnoxious. It’s notable lack of any bass in the mix is something that often holds it back (and the lack of bass is especially interesting because lead singer/songwriter Tyson Ritter plays the bass, but I digress). The guitars are certainly the main driver and focal point here, but often feel restricted by staying within the confines of three to four minute song lengths and typical rock song structure, the band never takes a chance by really letting them loose. Despite all of its raw energy and ridiculous amount of riffs packed in, these characteristics make Move Along feel like an album that almost feels purposefully restrained. This is an album full of flash, but also one that has remarkably little depth in its production, outside of the token Theremin or string arrangement. Albums get remastered and repackaged for no reason at all nowadays, but what wonders a total remaster/second chance at a mix would do for this collection of songs.

And yet, for all of it’s questionable production techniques, and its simplistic and often throwaway lyrics, it pulls me back in. Even without a low end, the band sounds absolutely enormous on Move Along, demanding your attention at every turn; the band lives or dies by its abundance of hooks and trademark pop-punk snarl making up for any aural shortcomings. Forget listening to this album critically, it’s not meant for that anyways, it’s a get in, get out, conquer the world via your iPod Mini kind of record. The hit singles (“Dirty Little Secret”, “Move Along”, “It Ends Tonight”) are all well and good, but the best track on the album is easily “Dance Inside,” which is ripe with crackling anxiety and a bouncy guitar riff that pops in during the second chorus and drives the rest of the song. But, give me the whole damn album, I’ll recite every single lyric to this album without any hesitation. I’ll mimic the drum fills beat for beat. I’ll air guitar the solos. I’ll eat all of it up, just like I did in 2005.

So when a vinyl pressing of Move Along was announced last month, I jumped on the opportunity to own a record that meant so much to me when I was first getting into music (and obviously still does). I was hopeful that some of the low-end issues that I’ve noticed on the digital versions of these songs would be remedied or at the very least touched up for a format that really highlights the quality, or lack there of, in a mix and master. Unfortunately, the record is clearly straight from the digital source, no touchups, no alterations, no remaster, just a straight transfer to wax, which is disappointing and kind of makes listening to this record on vinyl a ridiculous task, but hey, it’s still nice to have a gatefold sleeve and alternate cover from the original. It’s a talking piece for anyone around my age, at the very least (this is how I justify to myself that this was a good, valuable addition to my record collection and not just a purchase made out of passion).

Signs you have a problem: a poorly mixed album with no bass? Give it to me on vinyl!

Meanwhile, the All American Rejects did have some more success after Move Along. “Gives You Hell,” the lead single from their follow up, When the World Comes Down, was the most successful song of their career, even sporting a fairly iconic video to boot. Despite that single’s popularity, the rest of the album never caught fire like Move Along did. Their final album to date, Kids in the Street, followed in 2012, but this time, there were no hits, most likely because popular music in 2012 was a whole lot different than in 2005 or 2008. By that point, the band was more of an afterthought of a genre that had quickly left the mainstream shortly after they had peaked.

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