Forever the Sickest Kids – J.A.C.K.
Record Label: Fearless Records
Release Date: June 25, 2013
I’ve been a fan of Forever the Sickest Kids ever since my friend told me that lead singer Jonathan Cook said at a concert in Dallas that they were going to tour with Blink-182 in the near future (2008). I was of course skeptical like most people, (it was an obvious joke) but I went ahead and listened to the band’s first album, Underdog Alma Mater. I thoroughly enjoyed the album and became a quick fan. Their material between then and now has been largely hit or miss for many of their fans. Some people have loved every note of music from the band, some have disliked it all, and there are many people who fall in-between. I am one of the in-between people. I think the band had plenty of great ideas on both of the next two releases, The Weekend: Friday EP, and their Self-Titled album. My friends and I would play Underdog Alma Mater on full blast in our cars as we would drive around town, but I never had the desire to do that with the next two releases. This album, however, has finally been worth all of the patience.
The album name, J.A.C.K. is an acronym for the names of the band members: Jonathan, Austin, Caleb and Kyle. The first two songs the band released ahead of time were “Chin Up Kid” and “Nice to Meet You”. These songs demonstrate an issue with this album. They do not stand out as “Big Hit” songs like some of their past popular songs like “Whoa Oh!”, “She’s a Lady” and “Keep on Bringing Me Down”. I think it’s necessary to have a great song to draw people into listening to the album. Thankfully the album is really solid as a whole. I thoroughly enjoy both songs because they fit in perfectly with the whole album. Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy helped produce and write the fourth track “Nikki”. This is one of my favorites so far and I think the band would have really benefited from having him sing on the track as well. I think with Stump featured on the track it could have been that “Big Song” that got people listening.
I get the overwhelming feeling that FTSK heard “Some Nights” by Fun. on the radio and said to themselves “We can do that too.” The track “Ritalin (Born in America)” starts out with autotuned vocals very similar to “Some Nights”. The band seems to have meshed their established sound with the “effects and electronic noises” that are popular on many mainstream songs on the radio today. They did a very good job. They did it in a way that won’t alienate their fans, but might also draw in new fans. The song “Count on Me (For Nothing)” shows that the band was determined to try new things. I would argue that it is the most “different” song in their catalogue. The song has a unique choir/gang vocals part that came out very well.
By now FTSK have an established pattern of having a soft/acoustic track as the second to last song on all 3 albums. [“Coffee Break” on Underdog and “Forever Girl” on Self-Titled]. The song, “My Friends Save Me”, is rather “folksy”. It sounds like a combo of acoustic-punk, country, folk, and autotuned backing vocals. It reminds me of Been Bradley (The acoustic/electronic band that Austin and Caleb were in before FTSK.) Another one of my favorites on the album is “Kick It!” It is an unashamed, very poppy summer jam. I have been listening to Underdog Alma Mater in preparation for the new music, and as I have noticed before, I always want to tap my feet and shake my head along with music on that album. This song reminds me the most of that era of FTSK. By the third listen I was already nodding my head to “Kick It!”
The band said they wrote 46 songs during production and I honestly think it paid off. The 11 songs they went with are really solid and make for a very enjoyable listen. Most of the songs on Underdog Alma Mater had already been released on EPs by FTSK or were previously Been Bradley songs that were reworked. (By the way, “Nice to Meet You” is a reworked version of “America” by Been Bradley. They do that a lot.) My point is, they worked on Underdog for a long time, and that album is a classic. It seems like they worked that hard again for J.A.C.K. I really recommend putting any preconceived notions about the album aside in order to check out this great album.