I See Stars is a band known for mixing multiple genres into one stylish blend of music that is engaging and likable for fans of harder rock. Mixing post-hardcore screaming and breakdowns with pop punk and electronica is no easy task, but I See Stars pulled it off and produced a truly innovational album with their debut full-length, 3-D. Unfortunately, The End Of The World Party falls short of that mark. The danger with progressively unique hardcore bands is the possibility that artistic differences will arise or that the band will be unable to recapture that same style in a way that pleases its fans. These are dangers with any band that balances clean and unclean vocals, as views on that balance may change. When a group reaches that point, one side wins the struggle for power, skewing the balance and watering down the music in a new direction.
Former unclean vocalist Chris Moore was a distinctively awesome component I See Stars: seeing him live, watching his afro bob up and down as he banged on his keyboard and screamed all of his lines was a real pleasure. Due to the infamous “artistic differences,” Moore said goodbye and former member Zach Johnson, who was the unclean vocalist for 3-D, returned to take over unclean vocals, keyboards and synthesizers. Moore’s absence is noticeable: the ferocity I saw in the group’s live performance of earlier songs is not reflected in this newest album, even with Johnson’s return. In short, the band was unable to capture the aggression of 3-D, and the result is The End Of The World Party, which sounds like a hybrid of Owl City and All Time Low. This is a generalization, as there are a handful of great tracks that stay true to the band’s original formula, but for the most part, this is not the followup album fans were looking for. Devin Oliver’s vocals are impressively pure throughout the album, but without the accompanying heavy breakdowns and regular screaming, former fans may be disillusioned with this new music.
“The End Of The World Party” easily wins the award for best on the album, epitomizing the group’s perfect blend of electronica elements and post-hardcore. Based on this track alone, no one would be able to guess that the rest of the album betrays their bread and butter in favor of pop punk. Oliver’s vocals are striking in this one, hitting extremely high notes. Their allure is increased exponentially by how well they blend with the rocking guitar, energetic synthesizer and ingenious breakdowns. The use of technology and autotune enhances the sound, as it is used cleverly to contribute to the track’s vigorous rhythm of screaming and electronic interference. The music video is entertaining as well.
“Wonderland” gives signs of the band’s shift toward pop punk but this song manages to be catchy enough to avoid rough criticism. The guitar from Brent Allen, Jimmy Gregerson and Jeff Valentine and drums from Andrew Oliver actually take precedence in this song as opposed to the norm of synthesizers or screaming. The vocals rely heavily on autotune until the end of the song when a bull horn randomly kicks in. Screaming takes over and finishes it off from there. Fans who heard this song when it was was released as a single probably justified this song in the hopes it would be one of the lighter songs on the upcoming album. Unfortunately, this lighter side is just the tip of the iceberg.
“The Common Hours II” is slightly disappointing compared to “The Common Hours,” but is still a solid addition to the record’s heavier side. The song kicks off with blazing guitar in the backdrop and continues to impress by implementing the synthesizer heavily to lend to the fast-paced chorus. The song finishes on an epic note (before abruptly transitioning into the next song) with the repetition of “I will have my revenge…red rum, red rum, red….”
“Glow” features the same basic pattern the majority of these songs have: a poppy, autotuned first few verses and chorus followed by some screaming and a slight guitar/drums or electronica breakdown in the last minute. This combination works well for this track, but makes the rest of the album look insignificant in comparison because it is executed better here.
A band doesn’t just suddenly change their style of music; the group will usually release a transitional CD that hints at a possible shift but still appeases old fans. Then the group drops the next album, completely changing the style and eradicating anyone remaining from the old fan base while establishing a new one. The End Of The World Party may be that transitional album into pop punk. The loss of such a unique style of music is regrettable, even if this newer style is catchy and good for what it is (except for “Home For The Weekend,” which pushes the pop punk boundary way too far for anyone to enjoy). Fans of All Time Low, Hellogoodbye and Owl City who can tolerate a little screaming might find this appealing, but fans of the true style of I See Stars will be slightly let down. Because five years down the road, when someone wants to play some I See Stars, 3-D will be the better choice nine times out of ten.
Final Score: 5/10
Rank: 3rd (three total albums)
- The End Of The World Party
- Over It
- Still Not Quite Enough
- Home For The Weekend
- It Will Be Up (High School Never Ends)
- Upside Down
- The Common Hours II
- Where I Let You Down (Numb)
- Pop Rock & Roll