It wasn’t hard to understand Forever the Sickest Kids whilst growing into my teen years. For a group of relatable men, they seemed current on the issues I thought important and kept hitting the key points I thought necessary. The songs were catchy too. So every time I felt like digressing and dancing, it was obtainable.
However, with the release of their latest album J.A.C.K. I am puzzled. In truth, my habit of listening to FTSK has vanished, but my dabble in their new material was bound to have positive implications. Unfortunately, I find myself unapologetically upset with the music they’ve chosen to debut. It appears as their audience has matured, they haven’t, leaving the topics of interest as juvenile as ever.
The opening song, “Chin Up Kid,” starts off innocently enough. It actually takes a pretty likable approach to breakups. It’s encouraging and focuses on moving forward after something traumatic. I’ve found the lines, “But life goes on/the endings, the starting line/chin up/press on/you will survive,” to be nice as an asset to the song.
The next couple of songs are fine as well. “Keep Calm and Don’t Let Me Go” is about losing love but trying not to. It describes a familiar situation – boy loves girl too much, girl realizes men are scum, moves on. “Nice to Meet You” and “Ritalin (Born in America)” are a tad political, which is something new from this band. Their descriptions of typical myths about the joys of America are debunked as they describe their personal observations and experiences. The lines from “Nice to Meet You” – “America nice to meet you/so this is paradise/ I’ve heard a lot of things/ But I’ve seen nothing/ America nice to meet you” – are sassy and a little thought provoking. At this point I’m warming up to the album.
However, J.A.C.K. quickly becomes a sing-song piece of lighthearted misogyny. Maybe there’s no expression of hatred for women, exactly, but the connotation in which the band goes on to explain women and their mannerisms is shameful. The first key is “Playing with Fire.” An ode to a promiscuous girlfriend without the ability to do anything but hurt her man. “Everyone I know swears that she’s cheating on me/I’m just a sucker that fell in love with a liar.” If that’s not good enough, the lines, “She hates me/but she wants me inside,” really show how hard it is to be in love with a spiteful woman. Give me a break.
“Count on Me” follows suit, describing yet another situation of adultery. This guy just can’t catch a break, can he? Everyone has banded together to use and abuse him.
But the song that threw me over the edge was “La La Lainey.” Jonathan Cook sings about a woman who is apparently hardcore because she likes rock and roll, smoking cigarettes, and drinking before 5pm. Oh! She’s also a lesbian, which is implied by the line, “She was into girls/it was her own form of birth control.” So, if that description isn’t general enough, he goes on to sing about how disappointed daddy is in her constant partying, dating habits, and exposed tattoos. Too bad daddy’s not worried about the way the man loves her, which is apparently “I love her like pain/I love her like rage/I love her like shame.” So, now she’s somewhat of a problem.
Really, the only decent thing to off this album is the melodies the band employs. They’ve been able to keep the catchy part of their music up. “Chin Up Kid” features a pleasant course with light breakdowns used for emphasis. Even with my expressed distaste in the content of “Playing with Fire,” the melody is nice enough. It’s slow and smooth. Eventually a little auto-tune transitions the song into something airy. The overall atmosphere of the album is under-dramatic, but FTSK usually sticks to the casual side. No song really impresses.
I didn’t have hopeful expectations for J.A.C.K., so I have yet to feel any disappointment. The content level of this album is below standard and the way they chose to address things is ridiculous. The beginning seemed so decent, but the band’s misguided attempts at describing a strong personality have come off in the wrong way. I understand you love a woman who seems dangerous, but do you really need to shove her into a box of stereotypes and misinformed opinions about what’s actually correct?