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Hoobastank

Every Man for Himself [Bonus Track] [Limited Edition]

Format: CD   Release Date: 11/19/2008
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Hoobastank once and forever banished any lingering doubts that they were a bunch of ~Bonnaroo hippies, à la Ekoostik Hookah, with their 2003 sophomore effort, The Reason, a strident collection of loud, angsty rockers that sounded as if it could have come out in the twilight days of post-grunge in 1997/1998. Not catchy or bratty enough to truly be pigeonholed as punk-pop and way too big and slick to be emo, they were a straight-up, hard-edged alt-rock band, only without any suggestion of being outsiders, either in their sound or intent. They were anthemic, and nowhere more so than on the power ballad title track, which became a smash in 2004, climbing all the way to number two on the ~Billboard Hot 100. Two years after that, Hoobastank delivered Every Man for Himself, their third album and their first as bona fide rock stars, and it sure sounds like the work of a band that's now established: it's slick and stylish, big and bright, designed for arenas and as bumper music on both MTV and VH1. Bassist Markku Lappalaninen may have left the fold, but his absence is not the reason for the slight changes in their sound; he would not be the one to polish the production, to add the strings, or to add a heavy dose of Franz Ferdinand-styled disco-rock, either. These are all things that the remaining three -- vocalist Douglas Robb, guitarist Dan Estrin, and drummer Chris Hesse -- along with returning producer Howard Benson brought to the table, and the result is a record that sounds a little more colorful and a little more appropriate than its two predecessors, which tended to be slightly monotonous and dull. The proliferation of keyboards, strings, acoustic guitars, and even horns gives this some welcome sonic variety, which helps balance the plodding sincerity of the group's grinding guitars and Robb's ham-fisted lyrics ("I am not the next of them/I am the first of me"). And since Hoobastank is about the overall sound instead of the specifics of the song or performances, it is good that there is more happening on the surface, since it makes the album coherent and easier to digest. But even if Every Man for Himself was constructed with the mainstream in mind, it likely won't win any new converts. [Universal issued a bonus track edition in 2007.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

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