For a band whose name invites at least some amount of mocking laughter (“Hello Chicago! We're Over it!”) Over It sound quite respectable on their new album, Step Outside Yourself [Virgin Records]. It's 46.6 minutes of melodic, morally indignant punk – not new by any stretch (or particularly original), but it makes for a good listen.
“Think Against the Grain” starts the album with acoustic and electric guitars layered together, for a nice, open, beginning-of-the-day feel, but soon moves into the familiar. A guitar keeps a strong, heavy pulse, and the drums jump around behind it. The anxious, introspective lyrics set the tone for the album, and it's probably a theme you've heard before: “Break out! Be something, step out of the crowd! Celebrate moral ambiguity!” Well, OK, maybe the last part's not quite as common. The album's songs sound mostly the same (whether that's consistency or repetition you'll have to judge for yourself), and the lyrics focus on the ideas of wasted potential and feeling lost. It's not grim, though. The band clearly encourages the listener to rise above their unspecified social restrictions.
The really good points about the album have mostly to do with this almost optimistic tone. The songs are melodic (there's no screaming to be heard) and catchy. Many of them seem like they would work as acoustic tracks, evidence that the band doesn't need to hide behind a distorted sound to make their music work. At their best moments, the lyrics, melody, and tone combine for a downright triumphant sound. The hook of the album's lead single “Siren On The 101” soars with emotion and gets stuck in your head at the same time.
Unfortunately, these moments are few and far between. The sound exemplified on Step Outside Yourself is actually quite generic. The crush of guitars and catchy choruses are on any number of other records, and it raises the question, Why this one? Also, the quality of the lyrics is inconsistent, even within individual songs. The completely badass “now is the time to come out with your hands up” immediately gives way to the cringe-inducing “the neighbors are dialing the nine and the one-one.” Because there are so few genuine standout moments on the album, most of its songs run together as you listen to them.
So is Step Outside Yourself worth picking up? That depends. The mix between anger and inspiration may turn some people off – certainly, if what you want is a clearly aggressive sound, you'd do better to get the new Rise Against album. Conversely, people looking for glass-half-full music may be irritated by the album's tendency to find happiness in righteous conflict. Someone in the middle will do best in navigating the album's highs and lows. In short, if there's a hole in your music collection where some kind of punk rock should be, Over It will fill that hole. Just don't expect them to do it any better than everyone else.