You Blew It!’s sophomore record was in for a hard time after my first listen. As a pretty big fan of their first album Grow Up, Dude and its treble-y low-fi twinkling and light-footed emo punking, there was a huge amount of disenchantment in the room when Keep Doing What You’re Doing came to its end. The band not only changed their sound for the worse apparently, but they also lied about it with this super-distinct album title which clearly stated that they would continue with those fun little guitar tidbits, bouncing bass rumbling and general fuzzy-go-lucky attitude predominating on their debut. Now they stick for the most part to the basic formula for bands that try to hide their pop-punk core with midwest emo-reminiscence and regularly earn praise like “Kinsella-esque” for it. We have some trendy “Everyone I know sucks in some way” lyricism (not the witty kind), arpeggios everywhere and thick chord rugs that stage the raspy/clean dualism of vocalist Tanner Jones, who’s been arguably more adorable on the low-key mix of the band’s last LP. However, as I spun the record a few more times it started to grow on me, and I realized that You Blew It! kept doing what they’re doing after all. Just different, and a little bit astray.
I hate myself for saying that but Keep Doing What You’re Doing somehow feels like a natural progression for the four guys from Orlando, Florida. There is still the penchant for intricate guitar arrangements, it’s just manifesting in a more restrained, contrived manner that suits the more focused song structures. Meanwhile, their enthusiastic playfulness now lies more in bigger compositions and louder hooks instead of individual scintillations and subtle melodic finesse. The songs feel more gripping and mature now that the band’s rolling back with the reckless sonic explorations in favor of more controlled and steady chord progressions, though all in all I just can’t help but think that the band sacrificed too much for their ambitions in order to evolve. When looking behind the facade of perfectly enacted pop-punk refrains with emo glazing, there’s just not enough congenial idiosyncrasies and creative advancement on Keep Doing What You’re Doing to live up to the quirky charm of its predecessor. Sure, there are some killer hooks and catchy one liners that beg to be played again some time, but as a whole the record feels ultimately too insignificant and plain to really stand out among its peers or the ones it draws it influences from.
On a not-so-dramatic note, if you like the band’s debut, the genre, other Topshelf artists or some well-crafted sing-along music, chances are you will like or yet love Keep Doing What You’re Doing for what it is. You’ll like the big catchy melodies, the crisp production, the driving rhythm section, and you’ll probably think that the change in sound that You Blew It! conducted was for the better. For me, however, the band gave away too much of its airily charm and, dare I say, potential. It’s not just the restraint of the sexily twinkling guitars (though yeah, sometimes I think that’s probably just it); it’s also the fact that the band plays it too safe with an adapted, fuller sound that can’t belie the lack of ingenuity and substance, and a bunch of pretty good songs which are nothing more than pretty good songs that are also somewhat repetitive.
I won’t argue that You Blew It! progressed in some way and that it’s only reasonable for them to do so and so forth. I’m simply disappointed that they seemingly forgot what made them special.