In my review of Man Overboard’s recent single “White Lies,” I recall applauding the band’s sound, lyrics, and catchiness. With the pop-punk scene seeing the emergence of a bunch of great bands over the past few years, I faithfully predicted that Man Overboard would find their spot at the top with some of the genre’s best with their new album, Heart Attack. The sad thing, though, is that the single is a poor song to base the album on. Not only is it the record’s best track, but it sticks out like a sore thumb. Because, as a whole, Heart Attack is a run-of-the-mill pop-punk effort with few memorable things about it.
Unlike emo-punk albums of the early 2000s, many of which could be classified as “sad,” “poetic,” or “relatable,” Heart Attack can be summed up in one word: “whiny.” The lyrics have a flair for the dramatic, but not in a good way. An overly sentimental vibe flows through most of the 14 tracks on the record, and this mood is strained to the point that it doesn’t feel intimate, or at least lacks the same connective motivation. Pop-punk lyrics should be relatable enough that the listener should want to sing along, but this is far from a sing-along album – despite its poppy underbelly. This could be due to Zac Eisenstein’s shrill, nasally vocals, which continue to be as whiny and annoying as the lyrical content. While the songwriting is in a similar vein to Man Overboard’s past material, their last two records were products of the same everyone-sucks-and-I-don’t-fit-in mindset. It’s a theme that is getting old within pop-punk, and unless the music is strong enough to back up these sad-sack ideals, the album will become monotonous and tiring.
Musically, Heart Attack is anything but satisfying. Despite some great riffs and melodies here and there, the record is more been-there-done-that than anything. Man Overboard seems to be nodding more towards their melodic side than their hardcore roots, and the high-pitched guitars are the main source of this. While the pop-punk sound the band produces is a bit bland, the straight-up, no-bull feeling it creates is a comforting one. For some, it may be a nostalgic nod to older New Found Glory, and for others it may seem right at home alongside contemporary acts that range from The Story So Far to I Call Fives. But the biggest problem is that where the band’s self-titled offering displayed signs of a band beginning to find their niche, Heart Attack backtracks into a generic base punk sound. It may be a vibe the band is going for, but it’s not a very colorful one. It’s more black-and-white than the blue, purple, and red cover art, that’s for sure.
Opener “Secret Pain” is a bouncy tune, but it’s a frustrating song to open on because it lacks the power to carry the listener through the rest of the album. It’s not catchy, nor does its lyrical content sparkle. The song feels like the shell of an album opener rather than an energetic anthem to kick things off. “Heart Attack” is a fun, mood-driven song, but by the time the listener hits it, they’re probably already a bit worn out by the band’s interminable formula. Eventually the album hits a peak with “White Lies,” the fifth track, and everything is downhill from there. It’s just a shame that the rest of the album isn’t in the same vein as this track, as “White Lies” balances aggressiveness and melody without sacrificing its emotional efficiency.
Man Overboard could’ve made an extremely solid album if they toyed with different feelings and energy levels instead of the constant bitter attitude and medium tempo. Some may like the record’s compactness, but to me, it felt like the band lost sight of their potential and wrote an album void of play-through quality or variety. The main standouts apart from “White Lies” are the summer-esque title track and “Open Season,” which prospers mainly because of the great vocal overlap of Eisenstein and Thursday’s Geoff Rickly. Since the album isn’t super heavy or technical, it needs to be catchy, and excluding the few standouts, Heart Attack isn’t. Because it lacks replay quality, the 14-song tracklist is a bit of an overkill. If the songs didn’t run together as much, the lengthy runtime would’ve been a blessing to listeners. Heart Attack is an album that may take a back-to-basics pop-punk approach, but it’s forgettable as far as the actual music goes.
I enjoy music that solves problems through thought, connection, and understanding, and Heart Attack leaves me feeling empty. It’s a record full of endless griping. Man Overboard takes the idea of connecting their music to others through honesty and realness and completely blows things out of proportion. They obviously write about their feelings. However, they’re full of aimless angst and they pack it into an overdone pop-punk formula. I support pop-punk, and if it’s good enough, I will defend it, but if this record is Man Overboard’s biggest asset, I don’t see myself defending them at the moment. While Heart Attack isn’t a terrible album per se, it’s a below average record featuring some incredibly mediocre pop-punk.